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European scientists launch effort for HIV vaccine in 5 years

Researchers from nine European countries, Australia, Canada and the United States are working together to speed up development of a vaccine.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers have come together to work on an HIV vaccine in the hope that pooling knowledge and work will speed up the process of finding an effective vaccine. Photo by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock
Researchers have come together to work on an HIV vaccine in the hope that pooling knowledge and work will speed up the process of finding an effective vaccine. Photo by Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock

LONDON, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Scientists from nine nations of the European Union, Australia, Canada and the United States announced they will work together to get a vaccine for the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, into human clinical trials within five years.

The European AIDS Vaccine Initiative 2020 is being funded by a 23 million euro grant from the EU's Horizon 2020 program to allow scientists from 22 institutions to pool knowledge and recent research developments in order to speed up the work toward a working vaccine.

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About 37 million people around the world have HIV or AIDS, and two million people acquire HIV each year, according to the World Health Organization.

In June, three studies funded by the National Institutes of Health showed advancement on vaccines that help prevent HIV from infecting cells in the body.

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"This new project should enable us to move much more quickly," said Robin Shattuck, a professor at Imperial College London and coordinator of EAVI2020, in a press release. "It brings together a multidisciplinary team of molecular biologists, immunologists, virologists, biotechnologists and clinicians, 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."

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Imperial College London, which is leading the group of institutions, will at the outset be studying the effect of already existing vaccines on the bodies of healthy volunteer participants. The vaccines cause people's bodies to make antibodies that fight off HIV, which scientists plan to research as they refine the vaccines.

Shattuck said recent advances made on potential vaccines that cause antibodies to be produced -- the three NIH studies involving rabbit, monkey and mice cells and showed their potential efficacy -- will be one significant area of focus for researchers involved with EAVI2020.

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"Creating an effective vaccine against HIV represents one of the greatest biological challenges of a generation," Shattock said in a press release. "This project creates a unique opportunity for us to build on the enormous scientific progress gleaned over the last few years, providing an unprecedented insight into the nature of protective antibodies and anti-viral cellular response that will be needed for an effective vaccine."

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