Vaccine Center Sending Riders to Europe to Cycle for AIDS-Free Future
scientists, students and staff will cycle almost 500 miles carrying
their vision of an AIDS-free future during the European AIDS Vaccine
Ride. For seven days, the Emory team will trek from Amsterdam to Paris
to raise money for HIV vaccine research.
Two university research centers
the Emory Vaccine Research Center, directed by Dr. Rafi Ahmed and
the UCLA AIDS Institute, directed by Dr. Irvin Chen will equally benefit
from proceeds raised from the European ride, as well as organizations
in Europe conducting AIDS vaccine research.
The June 30 July 6 event
is organized by Pallotta TeamWorks of Los Angeles, organizers of the
AIDSRides USA, which have provided AIDS charities around the world with
more than $97 million in eight years.
"By the end of last year,
more than 40 million adults and children were living with HIV infection
and more than 15,000 were being newly infected each day," Dr. Ahmed
says. "Without effective therapy, it is expected that more than 98%
of these individuals will ultimately die of AIDS. In developing countries,
where the epidemic is most severe, even effective drugs are much too
expensive and complicated to administer. This is why the development
of a safe, effective, and affordable HIV vaccine is key to slowing and
ultimately ending the AIDS pandemic."
Using a portion of the funds
from the $1.1 million contribution from the AIDS Vaccine Ride in 2000,
the Emory Vaccine Center opened the Hope Clinic this year. The Hope
Clinic facility, led by Dr. Mark Feinberg, is specifically devoted to
conducting clinical trials of promising new vaccines and therapeutic
interventions. The Hope Clinic provides Emory investigators with exceptional
facilities to translate basic research findings into useful clinical
advances. The clinic will be the site of Emory's clinical AIDS vaccine
trials, and already the vaccine team is conducting three clinical trials
of promising AIDS vaccines in conjunction with Merck, Inc.
"Because HIV is fundamentally
different from any infectious disease that can currently be prevented
by vaccination, it poses unique scientific challenges," Dr. Ahmed notes.
"These challenges require creativity and innovation. Traditional funding
agencies are sometimes reluctant to support the bold and innovative
strategies necessary for the development of an AIDS vaccine. The funds
that the Emory Vaccine Center has received from the AIDS Vaccine Ride
have contributed critically to our vaccine efforts. Our investigators
are beginning exciting new vaccine studies that have already achieved
impressive results in the laboratory and in animals."
Over the course of the European
journey, participants will be accompanied by medical personnel, transport
vehicles and other technical support should the need arise. At the end
of each night, participants sleep in a mobile "tent city," complete
with catered meals, hot showers, entertainment and remembrance tents
for personal times of reflection.
Veteran AIDS Vaccine rider
Joe Miller is participating in the event for his third year. He also
rode in the Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride in 2000 and 2001. As an Emory graduate
student in the Division of Biological Sciences, Miller studies how the
immune system responds to viral infections and is also currently studying
how human T-cells respond to viral infections, including HIV.
"On September 11, 7,000 people
died of AIDS and in the next 20 years, 75 million will have died of
AIDS without a vaccine," Miller said. "The AIDS epidemic cripples individuals,
destroys families, increases poverty, orphans children, ruins economies,
and destabilizes political frameworks."
Emory Vaccine Center riders
are raising the required $5,000 fundraising minimum per participant
through individual contributions and pledges.