Unique partnership brings new hope for vaccine to combat HIV

December 13, 2001

Imperial College and Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust will be at the heart of vital worldwide research into vaccines to combat HIV.

Thanks to a unique partnership with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Trust is hosting a core laboratory, under the direction of Imperial College professor Frances Gotch, which will co-ordinate the evaluation of work from worldwide HIV/AIDS vaccine trials.

The laboratory is based at the St Stephen's Centre, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the largest HIV Unit in Europe, caring for nearly 4,000 patients.

The announcement comes on the day of The Diana International Lecture on AIDS held by National Aids Trust.

Diana, Princess of Wales, opened the renowned Kobler Clinic at the Stephen's Centre on September 13 1988. It was the first ever service designed for HIV patients.

IAVI is a global organisation working to speed the development and distribution of preventive AIDS vaccines - the world's best hope for ending the AIDS epidemic.

With Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, and grants from US medical technology firm BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company; NYSE: BDX), IAVI has opened the laboratory to serve as a global clearinghouse for technical assistance to AIDS vaccine researchers worldwide.

The IAVI-Imperial College facility will work with vaccine development teams now or soon to be testing AIDS vaccine candidates in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, India and China, as well as in the US and throughout Europe. The laboratory will provide equipment and instruction for running vaccine trials according to international standards.

In addition, the laboratory will assist technicians with performing the tests that determine whether an AIDS vaccine candidate is working as it is designed to. The laboratory will promote standardisation in these tests, to allow head-to-head evaluation of which vaccines work better than others.

Professor Frances Gotch, Professor of Immunology at Imperial College based at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. She said: "It is excellent that IAVI has decided to support a core laboratory at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

"The urgency of the HIV epidemic demands that multiple vaccine designs are evaluated as soon as possible at many sites. Well validated and standardised modern technologies must be transferred to all vaccine sites and all evaluations need to be co-ordinated at a central site.

"We are honoured to have been chosen and feel that we have the experience and attributes necessary to carry out the task. Imperial College and Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare have a strong history of being at the forefront of clinical trials in this area."

AIDS now kills more people worldwide than any other infectious disease. More than 36.1 million people are living with HIV. Nearly all will die from AIDS-related complications within the next two decades. An estimated 5.3 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2000 (including almost 600,000 children).

"We hope our efforts will hasten the day when millions of young people in all parts of the world no longer have to face the inevitability of living and dying with HIV," said Professor Gotch.
-end-
For more information please contact:

Sarah McKellar at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Press Office on 020 7761 1787 or Tom Miller at Imperial College Press Office on 020 7594 6704.

Notes to Editors:

1. Professor Gotch's expertise is in cellular immunology with the emphasis on investigations into the mechanisms and importance of T cell activity in disease. Professor Gotch is renowned for her research into vaccines for HIV/AIDS. She was instrumental in setting up a research laboratory in the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe, Uganda and will be responsible for supervising the Immunology Core Laboratory at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.

2. Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine is the largest applied science, technology and medicine university institution in the UK. It is consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions for research quality, with one of the largest annual turnovers (UKP339 million in 1999-2000) and research incomes (UKP176 million in 1999-2000). Web site: www.ic.ac.uk

3. The laboratories at St Stephen's Centre, which are being leased to IAVI, are part of £3.6m redevelopment scheme at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to develop HIV services and clinical research. This includes the refurbishment of the renowned Kobler Clinic and the construction of a new Clinical Research Centre which will open in the new year.

Imperial College London

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