The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Emory University vaccine researchers Rafi Ahmed, PhD, and Bali Pulendran, PhD, approximately $4.5 million as part of the Gates Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery--a major national effort to overcome scientific obstacles facing HIV vaccine research and accelerate HIV vaccine development.
The Emory grant is part of a $30.1 million grant to a national consortium led by investigator Juliana McElrath of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The consortium will focus on vaccine adjuvants--substances that frequently are added to vaccines to increase their potency. The project, named "Harnessing Innate Immunity to Enhance the Immunogenicity of HIV Vaccines," includes scientists from academia, biotechnology and industry with broad expertise in the development and testing of vaccine adjuvants,
Dr. Ahmed is director of the Emory Vaccine Center, housed at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor of microbiology and immunology in Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Pulendran is a researcher in the Emory Vaccine Center and the Yerkes Research Center and a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in Emory School of Medicine.
The investigators will use laboratory and animal studies to explore the molecular pathways by which adjuvants enhance cellular immune responses. They will compare multiple existing and novel adjuvants to try to understand their mechanisms of action and evaluate novel adjuvants in clinical trials to determine the best ways to use them in combination with HIV vaccines. Because adjuvants are not specific to any one vaccine, the information obtained from these studies could be widely applicable to the use of adjuvants with other types of vaccines.
"We are very excited to be part of this international effort to accelerate vaccine development," said Dr. Ahmed. "The Emory Vaccine Center has a dedicated and very talented group of investigators focused on developing an effective HIV vaccine. This opportunity to collaborate with other leading researchers on a challenging aspect of our research will be extremely valuable as we continue to make progress toward our goal."
The Gates Foundation awarded 16 grants totaling $287 million to create an international network of 11 highly collaborative research consortia. The grants will support a range of innovative approaches for designing an effective HIV vaccine and will bring together more than 165 investigators from 19 countries to tackle some of the biggest scientific challenges facing the field. The consortia will be linked to five central laboratories and data analysis facilities, enabling investigators to openly share data and compare results, and allowing the most promising vaccine approaches to be quickly prioritized for further development.
The Gates Foundation grants help address research priorities identified by the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an alliance of researchers, funders and advocates from academia, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and private industry in developing and developed countries dedicated to implementing a shared scientific plan to accelerate HIV vaccine development.