New York—The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has received a $378,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to convene international scientists and public-health experts to explore the creation of a Human Vaccines Project that could collectively leverage technological advances to accelerate the development of new vaccines against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other major diseases.
“New approaches are critically needed,” said Wayne C. Koff, IAVI Chief Scientific Officer and Principal Investigator of the grant. “Despite major advances in vaccine discovery and immune-system monitoring, common questions hinder development of vaccines against many diseases. Solving these trans-vaccinology questions in a global consortium could be transformative for individual and public health. IAVI is once again proud to serve as a catalyst in cutting-edge science by convening a forum to open this conversation.”
Vaccines are among the greatest successes in the history of public health, having led to the eradication of smallpox, near eradication of polio, prevention of 2-3 million deaths per year, and dramatic reductions in human suffering and healthcare costs. Yet there are many deadly, debilitating, and costly diseases for which vaccines still do not exist. These diseases pose major challenges to previously effective vaccine-development strategies with sophisticated mechanisms to evade the immune system. In addition, there are limitations to how well animal models can predict human immune responses to vaccines, and it often takes multiple decades for a vaccine to go from discovery to use.
As outlined by Koff and eight fellow scientists in Science in May 2013, a Human Vaccines Project would aim to identify and prioritize the questions to solve. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IAVI will host three workshops to explore the viability, potential impact, and requirements of such a project. The first workshop, in February, will gather internationally recognized representatives from academia, the vaccine industry, government, and product-development partnerships and other non-government organizations to help identify needs and craft a potential scientific plan.
“To spur innovation and accelerate breakthroughs, we must transform the current landscape of vaccine development,” said Deborah Bae, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “By sharing knowledge, workshop participants will help identify challenges impeding vaccine development and seed a new collaborative approach to research that we hope will put us on a path to new discovery.”
“There are many viral, bacterial, parasitic, and chronic diseases for which vaccines are needed,” said Stanley Plotkin, Emeritus Professor of the University of Pennsylvania and Chairman of the Human Vaccines Project Steering Committee. “This Project holds the potential to greatly accelerate the development of vaccines against major global killers, and provide a foundation for future prevention of new and emerging diseases.”