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International study investigates early biology of HIV infection

CHAPEL HILL In July 2005, the race to find a vaccine that would stem the worldwide rate of 13,000 new cases of HIV infection each day moved from competition among research institutions to a strategy of cooperation.

An international "virtual research center" the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) was awarded up to $300 million over seven years to support efforts to develop an HIV vaccine.

The first of several research studies in this collaboration now is under way and is aimed at gaining new knowledge into the biology of HIV infection during its earliest days, before the immune system has produced antibodies to the virus.

Dr. Myron S. Cohen, the J. Herbert Bate distinguished professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, leads the new study.

A grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a component of the National Institutes of Health, established CHAVI at Duke University under the leadership of Dr. Barton Haynes, Frederic M. Hanes professor of medicine and immunology at Duke University Medical Center and director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute.

The UNC Center for Infectious Diseases, which Cohen directs, has pioneered the development of techniques to recognize patients with the earliest phase of HIV. Cohen and his colleagues have conducted HIV research internationally for more than a decade at clinical sites in Madagascar, China, Malawi, Cameroon and South Africa.

More than two decades after AIDS and the virus that causes it were first identified, an effective vaccine to halt the spread of HIV infection remains elusive.

"Until we know more about the transmission of HIV and early immune response, how the human body responds to the virus and how the virus behaves, we will have great difficulty in developing an effective vaccine," Cohen said.

CHAVI investigators at institutions across the globe including the
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Contact: L. H. Lang
llang@med.unc.edu
919-843-9687
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
2-May-2006


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