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Thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the Fight against HIV/AIDS race for a vaccine received a $23.4 million boost to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in the largest HIV/AIDS research grant to date.

Dr. Robert Gallo University of Maryland School of Medicine HIV/AIDS ResearchResearchers and HIV/AIDS Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine will now move forward on ground breaking decades long HIV/AIDS Vaccine research. The largest gift of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of $23.4 million was awarded to the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology. UM’s Institute of Virology headed by Dr. Robert Gallo, who helped discover the human immunodeficiency virus which causes the virus AIDS, and developed the HIV blood test.

Dr. Robert Gallo’s research team at the University of Maryland’s Institute of Virology began research on the AIDS vaccine in 2002 and have seen ground breaking results on tested monkeys.

The HIV/AIDS Vaccine currently under development at UM’s Institute of Virology would neutralize different strains of HIV. Dr. Robert Gallo’s research team say previous HIV/AIDS vaccine candidates responded only to single strains or narrow ranges of the disease.

HIV/AIDS Vaccine Scientists have been stumped by the AIDS virus’ ability to mutate. The AIDS virus rapidly changes the makeup of the body’s proteins on the surface, creating the task hard for antibodies to attack the disease. HIV/AIDS Vaccines which have been developed to battle the disease have proved too weak to meet the task.

The Institute of Virology HIV/AIDS vaccine contains a protein that is typically hidden within the AIDS virus however exposed itself when the virus attaches to a cell before attacking it. The protein doesn’t change, unlike the proteins on the outer coat of the virus.

The University of Maryland’s IHV antibodies in the current research trial bind to regions common in HIV rather than to the constantly changing protein which is usually different in each virus strain.

On Thursdays announcement of the $23.4 million HIV/AIDS grant Gov. Martin O’Malley said, “Today, we are on the verge on a major breakthrough in HIV/AIDS.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationThe new hope for a HIV/AIDS cure was made possible by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who donated $16.8 million to the UM’s IHV research, while the Army’s Military HIV Research Program gave $2.2 million. The National Institutes of Health and others also have contributed funds. The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation also awarded the IHV $15 million in 2007 used in developing the HIV/AIDS vaccine.

Col. Peter Weina, deputy commander of the Military HIV Research Program, said it decided to partner with the IHV because its current findings seemed promising.

“No one institution is able to do everything well, but by collaborating we can develop the synergies to make a breakthrough we might not be able to do by ourselves,” Weina said after Thursday’s announcement.

Gallo and scientists at the IHV will conduct the research along with researchers from the Military HIV Program and Sanofi Pasteur, a drug company that specializes in distributing and developing vaccines.

Part of the HIV/AIDS vaccine research will involve testing the vaccine created by IHV scientists to see how it works with a different vaccine tested by Sanofi Pasteur and the Military HIV Research Program in Thailand. That vaccine reduced risk of infection by about a third.

“We thought we might couple them and make theirs work better and help ours as well,” Dr. Robert Gallo said.

The researchers will also look at how long the vaccine will last in humans. Dr. Robert Gallo said it would be hard to provide vaccine boosts to people in Third World countries several times a year.

The money will enable the Institute of Human Virology to move from preclinical work to Phase I and II clinical trials that would include humans.

Initial testing of the HIV/AIDS vaccine was done by Profectus BioSciences, a Baltimore-based spinoff of the institute which Dr. Robert Gallo said will continue to do more testing with the new funding.

IHV Scientist and Researchers have said they’re closer than they have ever been to developing a vaccine.

Medications now enable people living with AIDS to manage the disease and survive for many years. But the drugs are expensive costing upwards of $2,200 per month and don’t cure people. People living with HIV also have a much higher risk of developing certain cancers, such as those of the lung, liver, head and neck.


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