European Commission launches €23M HIV vaccine research initiative

Seeking to throw support into a field that has seen recent scientific advancements, the European Commission is stepping up with funding to form the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020). The effort will set out to develop protective and therapeutic HIV vaccines by bringing together experts from 22 institutions, both public and private.

EAVI2020 coordinator Robin Shattock

With €23 million in grant money, EAVI2020 will seek to develop HIV vaccine candidates that can be taken to human trials within 5 years, stressing the importance of an effective vaccine as the "best hope" of ending the epidemic impacting 35 million people globally, according to a release.

The team will look to build on the "enormous scientific progress gleaned over the last few years" in HIV research, EAVI2020 coordinator Robin Shattock of Imperial College London said in a statement. In doing so, it'll be joining a host of organizations large and small looking to combat the virus' challenging characteristics to create an effective vaccine.

Just last month, the University of Maryland brought its HIV vaccine candidate to human trials at the direction of esteemed HIV researcher Dr. Robert Gallo. The trial will set out to test the candidate's ability to create a broad antibody response to numerous HIV strains, something that researchers at The Scripps Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have also set out to do with their own candidates. Duke University also scored a $20 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop its vaccine.

EAVI2020 will bring together a team of molecular biologists, immunologists, virologists, biotechnologists and clinicians, Shattock said in a statement, "providing the breadth of expertise needed to take the latest discoveries in the lab and rapidly advance them through preclinical testing and manufacture, into early human trials." The team will analyze the antibodies produced by volunteers following immunization to learn more about the body's antibody-producing mechanisms in order to tweak the vaccine candidates. According to the European Commission's announcement, it'll focus on early, iterative, human vaccine studies to identify candidates with the most potential. Further, to reduce the risk associated with late stage failure, it'll look to innovate new risk-prediction methods, the statement said.

The group will include researchers from 9 EU countries, along with Australian, Canadian and U.S. collaborators.

- here's the announcement (PDF)
- get more from the European Commission