First Grants For Innovative AIDS Vaccine Research Awarded

September 29, 1997

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has selected the first grant recipients in its new program to foster innovative research on AIDS vaccines. Earlier this year, NIAID announced the INNOVATION Grant Program for Approaches in HIV Vaccine Research, designed to speed the pace of discovery and development in vaccines to prevent HIV disease.

"President Clinton has challenged the nation to develop a vaccine against AIDS in the next 10 years," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala. "These grants will help to foster the kind of fresh, innovative thinking we need to achieve that goal."

"We are extremely pleased by the overwhelming response to this announcement. The 49 grants we are funding will explore creative approaches to vaccine design and involve many investigators new to AIDS research," commented NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

NIAID awarded the 49 grants, totaling more than $11.8 million, after an exhaustive evaluation of more than 100 applications. The grants will be for either one- or two-year funding periods. The grant recipients, 28 of whom are new to NIAID's extramural research program, will be conducting research within the following areas: understanding the structure and function of the HIV envelope protein; improving animal models for vaccines and studies on the causes and progression of disease; and understanding the mechanisms of antigen processing in living organisms to maximize the immune response.

NIAID created the INNOVATION Program to encourage novel ideas and approaches while stimulating interest from a new group of scientists, including those who had not been involved in HIV research. The AIDS Vaccine Research Committee (AVRC) chaired by David Baltimore, Ph.D., president-designate of the California Institute of Technology, endorsed the concept of the INNOVATION Program.

"Traditional killed vaccine or live attenuated vaccine development methods are being pursued, but may not be the most successful for HIV," said Dr. Baltimore. "To discover the best way to tame HIV infection, we need also to focus on the newer biomedical technologies and approaches that depart from the conventional."

The grant recipients will be conducting research to:

**Identify sites and mechanisms of viral and immune cell interactions once the virus has attached to a cell.

**Develop novel approaches to analyzing the structure of HIV. New knowledge of the biophysical characteristics of HIV's structure can bring to light additional sites for attacking it.

**Improve the immune-stimulating ability of HIV proteins.

**Study the impact of newly described or less studied cell types of the immune response to HIV. These studies may provide information on how to improve existing vaccine candidates or additional therapeutic targets.

**Explore the potential of new genetically engineered animal models.

**Study the mechanisms of action that may clarify the roles of HIV as it interacts with immune cell receptors during infection. Such studies may show researchers more opportunities to intervene in the infection and disease processes.

**Develop new vaccine formulations to improve ways in which the vaccine material is presented to the immune system. HIV is a quickly mutating virus. The chances for a vaccine interfering with the virus' progress are improved when scientists can identify better ways of alerting the immune system to potential danger.

**Develop new vectors and improve existing ones. Vectors, or carriers of vaccine materials and immune system stimulators, can greatly enhance a vaccine's effectiveness.

The grantees are: Because of the importance and urgency that NIAID and the AVRC place on AIDS vaccine development, NIAID piloted a new streamlined grant award process with this program announcement. NIAID published the call for applications in March 1997 and selected recipients within six months. Based on the encouraging response from the scientific community, a second program announcement is planned.

NIAID, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Press releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the Internet via the NIAID home page at

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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