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April 18, 2002


New Research Facility Will Conduct Clinical Studies of Promising New Vaccines for AIDS, Malaria, and Other Infectious Diseases

Emory University dedicates The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Research Center on Wednesday, April 24 in downtown Decatur. The Hope Clinic is a newly created Emory clinical research facility devoted to clinical trials of promising new vaccines and therapeutic interventions. Investigators at the Clinic, located at 603 Church St. in Decatur, will use the new facility to translate basic research findings into useful clinical advances in preventing and treating some of the world's most challenging infectious diseases, including AIDS and malaria.

The Emory Vaccine Research Center is home to one of the largest basic and preclinical vaccine research programs at any university worldwide. The Hope Clinic was created by the Emory University School of Medicine, the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center and the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) to provide new opportunities for vaccine scientists to advance their research from the laboratory into human clinical trials.

In celebration of the dedication of The Hope Clinic, the Emory Vaccine Research Center will sponsor a public lecture on "Opportunities and Challenges in the Pursuit of an AIDS Vaccine." The lecture, by Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of The Hope Clinic and Emory professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology, will take place Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building Auditorium at 1440 Clifton Rd. on the Emory campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Dr. Feinberg will discuss some of the most exciting work of our times. In the 20 years since AIDS was first identified, HIV infection has emerged as the most devastating diseases humankind has ever faced. Dr. Feinberg will talk about the critical need for an effective AIDS vaccine, the challenges to its successful development, and explain how recent research advances at Emory and elsewhere are providing hopeful opportunities to enable achievement of this essential goal.

The lecture is also a thank you to the community, says Dr. Feinberg, especially those generous Atlantans who participate in clinical trials of promising new vaccines out of respect for science and love of humanity.

"The development of a safe, effective and affordable HIV vaccine represents the best, and potentially the only practicable, strategy to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the AIDS pandemic," Dr. Feinberg says. "Novel AIDS vaccine approaches have recently achieved impressive results in pre-clinical studies in the laboratory and in animal models, and are now entering clinical trials in humans. Overall, the level of energy and optimism, as well as the clarity of direction are now greater in the AIDS vaccine research community than ever before."

Emory also is sponsoring a scientific symposium on the search for an AIDS vaccine on Monday, April 22. A group of the nation's most respected scientific leaders in vaccine research will gather at Emory's Woodruff Health Sciences Center Auditorium from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. to present "AIDS Vaccine Science in 2002: Enduring Challenges and Promising New Directions." The symposium is sponsored by the Emory Vaccine Research Center and the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) and will address the latest findings in basic, pre-clinical and clinical AIDS vaccine studies. The symposium is free and open to physicians, medical researchers, health professionals, academics, and members of the public health community. The auditorium is located at 1440 Clifton Rd. on the Emory campus.

The symposium will include Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D., Georgia Research Alliance professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Emory Vaccine Research Center; Emilio A. Emini, Ph.D., senior vice president for vaccine and biologics research at Merck Research Laboratories; Dr. Feinberg; Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vaccine Research Center, National Institutes of Health (NIH); Neal Nathanson, M.D., vice provost for research, University of Pennsylvania and former director, Office of AIDS Research, NIH; and Harriet Robinson, Ph.D., chief, Division of Microbiology and Immunology, Yerkes Primate Research Center, and Asa Griggs Candler professor of microbiology and immunology, Emory University School of Medicine.

The Emory Vaccine Center's basic research program includes 13 core laboratories dedicated to research in immunology and vaccines, bringing together investigators from throughout Emory University to tackle diseases including AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza and respiratory illnesses.

Vaccine Center scientist Harriet Robinson is conducting preclinical studies of one of the most promising HIV candidate vaccines currently under development and plans to initiate Phase I clinical trials in humans beginning in early summer. In addition, Dr. Robinson is developing vaccines to target the HIV strains prevalent in Africa, India and China.

The Hope Clinic already is conducting clinical trials in healthy volunteers of three promising HIV vaccines manufactured by Merck & Co. The purpose of these studies is to evaluate the safety of the vaccines and assess their ability to stimulate immune responses against HIV. Early results from these studies indicate that these vaccines are more effective than any previously studied candidate AIDS vaccines in raising the types of immune responses believed to be important for controlling HIV infection, and hopefully preventing HIV transmission.

"While the attainment of a successful AIDS vaccine will likely take years of hard work and research innovation, the primary question for the field of AIDS vaccine research has recently shifted from 'whether' to 'when,'" Dr. Feinberg says.

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