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OHSU vaccine and gene therapy institute receives $3.5 million for AIDS vaccine research

PORTLAND, Ore. Researchers at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) and the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University have received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop new methods for vaccinating humans against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Louis Picker, M.D., associate director of the VGTI and director of the institute's vaccine program, will serve as principal investigator of the five-year study. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a component of the National Institutes of Health, is funding this research.

The research team is hoping to develop a new class of viral vaccine vectors to serve as the basis of HIV vaccine. Vectors are modified viruses used to safely deliver proteins from a disease-causing virus to the body. Vectors infect individuals, but do not cause any disease themselves. Rather, they serve to present the proteins from a disease-causing virus to the vaccinated person's immune system. This presentation allows the system to generate an immune response capable of protecting the vaccinated person from subsequent encounters with the disease-causing virus.

Most of the HIV vaccine development to date has focused on weakened viral vectors designed to infect the vaccinated person only briefly, insuring that the vector itself does not persist and potentially cause problems. For example, current approaches for HIV vaccines include weakened versions of the smallpox vaccine virus (vaccinia) or adenovirus engineered to produce HIV proteins. Both of these vectors can only survive for a limited time in the human body before they are eliminated by the immune system. While these vectors can generate high anti-HIV immune responses immediately following vaccination, these responses decline with time and may not produce an immune response of the correct characteristics to contain a chronic aggressive virus like HIV
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Contact: Jim Newman
newmanj@ohsu.edu
503 494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
25-May-2004


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