Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Grant Will Fund Institute of Human Virology Research for HIV Vaccine
Annapolis, MD (July 31, 2007) - Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that the University of Maryland has received a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funding will be used to support research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology (IHV) to further develop a promising HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate created by IHV that, in early studies, has shown potential to provide broad protection against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The $15 million, five-year grant is part of the Gates Foundation’s Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an international network of research consortia focused on accelerating the pace of HIV vaccine development. The announcement came during a news conference at State House in Annapolis.
"This grant reinforces what Marylanders have long known: that our state is a world leader in biotechnology, and more importantly, a leader in finding a vaccine that can help the thousands of people affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic," Governor O’Malley said. "I want to thank the Gates Foundation for funding this research, and Dr. Gallo for his important work to help us make AIDS a thing of the past."
"Our ultimate goal is a vaccine that will prevent HIV transmission. In early studies, this vaccine has already demonstrated that it has promise to produce an immune system response to various HIV strains. We are very happy that the Gates Foundation is supporting our efforts," said Robert C. Gallo, M.D., the founder and director of IHV, who co-discovered HIV and developed the first HIV blood test.
"This grant will allow us to further test and develop this promising vaccine candidate. I want to acknowledge the superb work by IHV’s Tony DeVico, Ph.D., and George Lewis, Ph.D., which has brought us this far on the vaccine," said Gallo, who is also a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
HIV’s ability to mutate rapidly into numerous strains has long frustrated efforts by the medical research community to develop an effective vaccine. Previous attempts by others to develop a vaccine have been unsuccessful because they were unable to stop a broad range of HIV strains. IHV scientists are encouraged by their potential vaccine, and the Gates Foundation grant will allow IHV scientists to conduct further studies on their vaccine so that they can understand better how the vaccine works against HIV.
"I am extremely pleased that the extraordinary research under way at IHV continues to be recognized and supported," says William E. Kirwan, Ph.D., chancellor of the University System of Maryland. "We are deeply grateful to the Gates Foundation for this generous grant, and we laud Bob Gallo and IHV for their strong commitment to resolving some of society's most difficult medical issues."
"The School of Medicine congratulates the Institute of Human Virology on this strong vote of support from the Gates Foundation," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland and dean of the School of Medicine. "This prestigious grant again underscores how the Institute continues to fulfill its mission of turning cutting-edge research into real benefits for people in need."
The grant is being awarded to the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI), IHV’s former parent university. The grant will shortly be transferred to the University of Maryland School of Medicine as a function of IHV’s transition from UMBI to the School of Medicine on July 1, 2007.
"This grant will support a marvelous public-private partnership between the Institute of Human Virology, its spin-off biotech company Profectus BioSciences and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals," says Jennie Hunter-Cevera, Ph.D., president of UMBI. The vaccine technology has been licensed from UMBI by Wyeth through Profectus BioSciences. Gallo added that he is also encouraged by the collaboration formed by IHV with Profectus BioSciences and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
IHV, located in Baltimore, is an institute of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Since its founding in 1996, IHV has become a world leader in HIV/AIDS research and treatment, with a proven track record of bringing medical benefits to people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.ihv.org.