LA JOLLA, CA - July 23, 2015 - The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has been awarded two grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation totaling more than $4.5 million to fund efforts to develop a vaccine against HIV/AIDS.
"We are delighted by the Gates Foundation's support of this critical work," said Jim Paulson, acting president and CEO of TSRI. "With 35 million infected individuals worldwide, an effective HIV vaccine is urgently needed to slow and ultimately eliminate new infections."
The new grants, awarded through the foundation's Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery (CAVD) program, will provide new tools in TSRI's High Resolution Electron Microscopy Facility to collect and process high-resolution images of HIV proteins interacting with antibodies (immune molecules), giving scientists a picture of which immunogens (substances that induce immunity) are most effective and why.
"This puts everything under one roof so we can better evaluate HIV vaccine candidates," said TSRI Associate Professor Andrew Ward, who will lead the five-year initiative.
In addition, since recent advances in electron microscopy (many of them from TSRI) have enabled scientists to collect more detailed images than ever before, the grants will support the processing power necessary to handle this unprecedented amount of data.
The project dovetails with many of the ongoing HIV vaccine efforts being conducted by scientists from TSRI, CAVD and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Neutralizing Antibody Center at TSRI. The effort also builds on last year's grant to TSRI from the foundation, which made possible the acquisition of a powerful new Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope.
"HIV is the Mt. Everest of viruses," said Ward. "This is an effort to screen immunogens and vaccines that have a high likelihood of success."
Video: Pushing the Limits of Microscopy to Fight Disease