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Executive Summary

AIDS VACCINE RESEARCH GROUPS FUNDED BY NIAID will focus on developing a product to block simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in monkeys. In a March 7 release announcing the awards, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained that "once an effective monkey vaccine has been designed using SIV, scientists can replace key parts of that model vaccine with matching ones from HIV." NIAID is funding five new National Cooperative Vaccine Development Groups for AIDS. Each group is funded for five years and will receive more than $4 mil. in the first year. NIAID awarded the first six groups last April. The groups are led by a principal investigator and include scientists from academia, industry and government. The principal investigators receiving the new grants are: Dennis Panicali, Applied bioTechnology; Wayne Hockmeyer, Molecular Vaccines, Inc.; Michael Murphey-Corb, Delta Regional Primate Center in Covington, Louisiana; Richard Compans, University of Alabama-Birmingham; and Arsene Burny, University of Brussels, Belgium. Four of the five groups will study SIV to find clues to design an HIV vaccine. The group headed by Molecular Vaccines will work with HIV alone. NIAID noted that SIV shares about 40-50% of its genetic structure with HIV, "which makes the immune response to the two viruses remarkably similar." The institute said vaccine researchers will "identify and tease out SIV molecules that stimulate the body's immune defenses to prevent the virus from establishing an infection. Researchers will then construct prototype vaccines from these components and test them for their ability to block SIV infection in monkeys." NIAID said parallel experiments will be conducted using HIV. Applied bioTechnology announced in a same-day release that it will develop prototype AIDS vaccines by "inserting one or more genes from HIV into vaccinia, the virus used as the basis of the smallpox vaccine." The company said the vaccinia "serves as a carrier for the HIV genes, and proteins for which they encode, and that are intended to stimulate an immune response." In addition, Applied bioTechnology is developing SIV vaccinia prototypes "containing antigens comparable to the HIV vaccine prototypes." The Applied bioTechnology group includes scientists at Harvard Medical School's New England Regional Primate Research Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.

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