Tag Archives: Imperial College London

HIV scientists launch 23 million euro project to develop vaccine

needle-vaccine-syringe-vial

A new 23 million euro initiative to accelerate the search for an effective HIV vaccine begins today.

Financed by the European Commission, the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020) brings together leading HIV researchers from public organisations and biotech companies from across Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA in a focused effort to develop protective and therapeutic HIV vaccines.

Story via
iclogo

According to the World Health Organisation, around 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. Over two million people are newly infected every year, and it is estimated that around 22 billion US dollars is spent yearly on HIV treatment and care. An effective vaccine remains the best hope of ending the epidemic.

Although researchers have been working on developing a vaccine for 30 years, recent advances are helping to speed up their quest. Scientists have isolated antibodies that are able to block HIV infection in preclinical models, and there have been new developments in using synthetic biology to design better vaccines.

The EAVI2020 consortium, which is led by Imperial College London, unites scientists from 22 institutions, pooling their knowledge and expertise to develop novel candidate vaccines that can be taken through to human trials within five years. EAVI2020 is funded with an EU grant under the health program of Horizon 2020 for research and innovation.

Professor Robin Shattock, Coordinator of EAVI2020, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “Creating an effective vaccine against HIV represents one of the greatest biological challenges of a generation. 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. We now understand much more about how humans make protective immune responses and how to structure vaccine candidates. We have a level of understanding at a molecular level that was not previously available.

“But it is impossible for one group or institution to create an HIV vaccine on its own. This new project should enable us to move much more quickly. 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.”

At Imperial, researchers will be looking at how healthy human volunteers’ immune systems respond to potential vaccines, studying the antibodies that the volunteers produce. The researchers will explore the pathways in the body that make these antibodies, in order to fine-tune candidate vaccines.

Dr Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director of the Health Directorate at the Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission said” In its dual role of policy maker and research funder, the European Commission has played an essential part for over thirty years in supporting HIV vaccine research. Despite major global investments in the field and the promising progress, several scientific obstacles have to be overcome to develop novel promising HIV vaccine candidates. It is with this in mind that the European Commission is providing an almost 23 million Euro grant to the EAVI2020 consortium from which we have high hopes for success. This will allow European scientists to work together and in collaboration with researchers from outside Europe to successfully develop predictive tools and better vaccine candidates to be tested at an early stage of the process”.

The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 681137.

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HIV research offers hope

Issue 89 - Scaling up treatment guidelines in resource limited settings

Immediate treatment of HIV can slow the progression of the virus, a study undertaken by researchers from the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Trials Unit has shown.

Antiretroviral medication taken during the early stages of infection, over a 48-week period, delays damage to the immune system and can defer the need for long-term treatment.

An estimated 34 million people suffer from HIV worldwide. The virus weakens the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to infection. In its early stages it often goes unnoticed; left unchecked, it can result in individuals being in danger of life-threatening illnesses.

The study, which took place over five years, took the form of a randomised controlled trial of antiretroviral treatment on 366 adults from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Uganda and the UK. It comprised mostly of heterosexual women and gay men and was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

At present, it is unusual for antiretroviral medication to be given to HIV patients in the early stages of infection. The trial randomly allocated the volunteers, who had been diagnosed with HIV no more than six months earlier, medication for 48 weeks, 12 weeks or not at all.

On average, the study found that those receiving no medication required a lifelong course of treatment 157 weeks after infection. Those receiving 12 weeks of antiretroviral medication took an average of 184 weeks before receiving lifelong treatment. Participants on the 48 week course began long-term treatment on average 222 weeks after infection.

Moreover, those receiving medication for 48 weeks had higher CD4 T-cell counts, which can reduce susceptibility to secondary infections such as tuberculosis. Adults on this course recorded lower levels of HIV in the blood, which could help reduce the risk of infection for sexual partners.

Dr Sarah Fidler, leader of the study from Imperial College London said: “These results are very promising and suggest that a year-long course of treatment for people recently infected with HIV may have some benefit on both the immune system as well as helping control the virus.”

Concerns over how cost-effective such treatment would be have been raised by some who do not deem the findings to be tremendously significant. Professor Gita Ramjee, who led the study in South Africa, commented: “We now need to weigh up whether the benefits offered by early intervention are outweighed by the strategic and financial challenges such a change in policy would incur, particularly in resource-poor settings such as Africa, although this may be where the most benefits are seen in terms of TB rates.”

Students at Oxford University have expressed interest in this new study. Fergus Chadwick, a Biologist, said: “It is really fascinating to see how theory that has been outlined in our lectures is being applied in the real world with such promising results.”

Original Article by Elizabeth Pugh at Oxfordstudent.com

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New HIV Test is 10 Times More Sensitive and a Fraction of the Price

Scientists have developed a HIV test which is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods.

The test uses nanotechnology which alters chemicals to give a visual result by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Molly Stevens who led the research said “Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper,”.

Simple and quick HIV tests that analyze saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.

“We would be able to detect infection even in those cases where previous methods, such as the saliva test, were rendering a ‘false negative’ because the viral load was too low to be detected,” she said.

The test could also be reconfigured to detect other diseases, such as sepsis, Leishmaniasis, Tuberculosis and malaria, Stevens said.
Testing is not only crucial in picking up the HIV virus early but also for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.

“Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce,” Stevens said.

According to 2010 data from the World Health Organisation, about 23 million people living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa out of a worldwide total of 34 million.

The virus is also spreading faster and killing more people in this part of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 1.9 million new cases out of a global total of 2.7 million in the same year, and 1.2 million out of the 1.8 million deaths.

The new sensor works by testing serum, a clear watery fluid derived from blood samples, in a disposable container for the presence of an HIV biomarker called p24.

If p24 is present, even in minute concentrations, it causes the tiny gold nanoparticles to clump together in an irregular pattern that turns the solution blue. A negative result separates them into ball shapes that generate a red color.

That sensor used tiny gold stars laden with antibodies that latched onto the marker in a sample and produced a silver coating that could be detected with microscopes.

Stevens and her collaborator on the new test, Roberto de la Rica, said they plan to approach not-for-profit global health organizations to help them manufacture and distribute the new sensor in low income countries.

Original Story via Reuters

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