AIDS group offers $150,000 vax research challenge

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is offering a $150,000 reward to researchers willing to tackle a key challenge in their R&D work. And the right answer could be worth a bonus of more than a million dollars along with a fresh supply of research funds.

The Challenge: Design a protein--or trimer--that mimics the part of the HIV envelope that is first visible to the body's host defenses. In animal models and other experimental systems, this envelope trimer has triggered antibody immune responses that have successfully blocked HIV from entering cells and thus prevented HIV infection. In its natural state the trimer is unstable and breaks down easily when it enters the body. To date, investigators have been unable to design a stable trimer that remains consistently intact in laboratory testing.

The researcher who successfully designs and creates a mimic of a stable functional HIV envelope trimer wins the challenge. IAVI will then test the trimer to see what kinds of immune responses it generates. If the trimer is sufficiently immunogenic, researchers will also be eligible for a bonus of up to $1 million dollars and the opportunity to pursue their research further with support from IAVI.

The challenge is posted by InnoCentive, a company that regularly offers a thorny research problem to scientists around the globe who stand to win sizable awards.

- read the press release