The worldwide search for an HIV vaccine received a boost as the
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced
funding of nine U.S. clinical units of the new HIV Vaccine Trials Network
(HVTN). The HVTN, expected to be fully established within a month, will
provide a comprehensive, clinically based network to develop and test
preventive HIV vaccines. In addition to the units based in the United
States, participating sites will be located in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia,
Latin America and the Caribbean.
"This NIAID network creates a coordinated, global framework in which to
conduct clinical HIV vaccine research," says NIAID Director Anthony S.
Fauci, M.D. "The HVTN will strengthen and expand our HIV vaccine studies
both domestically and in countries devastated by the AIDS pandemic."
NIAID is providing over $29 million for the first year of the HVTN. The
organization's clinical trials sites are coordinated by a Leadership Group
that includes a Core Operations Center, which will provide administrative,
technical and operational support, a Statistical and Data Management Center,
and a Central Laboratory.
NIAID's HIV vaccine research program was previously centered in two
separate groups: the U.S.-based AIDS Vaccine Evaluation Group (AVEG), which
carried out early-stage testing of vaccine candidates, and the HIV Network
for Prevention Trials (HIVNET), which conducted domestic and international
trials of HIV vaccine and other prevention strategies. AVEG and HIVNET
investigators, along with other scientists worldwide, underwent a
competitive, peer reviewed evaluation process during the creation of the new
"The HVTN will build upon the many accomplishments of the AVEG and HIVNET,"
explains Peggy Johnston, Ph.D., NIAID's assistant director for AIDS
vaccines. "The comprehensive clinical research agenda addresses many
promising scientific opportunities to develop an HIV vaccine, which is
ultimately the best hope for preventing the spread of HIV." Scientific
creativity, along with collaboration between private industry, academia and
government, are key aspects of the HVTN's design.
The HVTN will conduct all phases of clinical trials, from evaluating
candidate vaccines for safety and the ability to stimulate immune responses,
to testing vaccine efficacy. The network's web of U.S.-based units
integrated with sites around the globe will allow the HVTN to expand rapidly
to carry out larger scale studies of suitable vaccines. Many of the
international institutions already have extensive experience in HIV
prevention studies. Dr. Johnston notes, "Through the leadership of local
scientists and in partnership with other stakeholders, the network's
international components provide a critical capability to help identify
vaccines appropriate for those regions hit hardest by AIDS."
Lawrence Corey, M.D., will lead the HVTN's Core Operations Center at the
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle. Dr. Corey, head
of the FHCRC's Infectious Diseases Program and professor of medicine and
laboratory medicine at the University of Washington, says, "We have
assembled an exceptionally strong and talented clinical and laboratory
research team that is uniquely qualified to meet the many challenges facing
the HIV vaccine effort." The network's Statistical and Data Management
Center, led by Steve Self, Ph.D., will also be located at the FHCRC. Kent
Weinhold, Ph.D., will direct the Central Laboratory at Duke University in
Durham, North Carolina.
The following investigators head the domestic sites participating in the
- Robert Belshe, M.D. - Saint Louis University, Missouri
- William Blattner, M.D. - University of Maryland, Baltimore
- Donald Burke, M.D. - Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
- Susan Buchbinder, M.D. - San Francisco Department of Health,
- Raphael Dolin, M.D. - Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts
- Barney Graham, M.D., Ph.D. - Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
- Michael Keefer, M.D. - University of Rochester, New York
- Julie McElrath, M.D. - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and
University of Washington, Seattle
- Mark Mulligan, M.D. - University of Alabama at Birmingham
NIAID is also convening a National HIV Vaccine Communications Steering Group
to stimulate and enhance the national dialogue concerning HIV preventive
vaccines. The Steering Group, composed of HIV vaccine advocates and
communications specialists, will work closely with the HVTN to create a
supportive environment for future vaccine studies.
Besides the HVTN, NIAID is also establishing a parallel network, the HIV
Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), which will conduct research on a broad
range of HIV prevention strategies. Domestically and internationally, the
HPTN will evaluate and test microbicides and other promising biomedical and
behavioral interventions, including vaccines to prevent transmission of HIV
from mother to infant.
NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID
conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such
as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis,
malaria, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services.