OHSU researchers received a $25 million grant in 2014 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance work on a promising vaccine candidate that could prevent and cure infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The grant — awarded to a team of scientists at OHSU's Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute led by Louis Picker, M.D. — is among the largest philanthropic grants OHSU has ever received.
"I am humbled, yet incredibly excited by the confidence the Gates Foundation is showing in our work," said Picker, who is associate director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and director of its vaccine development program. "This generous level of support is a game-changer in how we can make real progress to defeat HIV and AIDS.”
The work of Picker and his colleagues focuses on a possible vaccine that shows promise in not only preventing the HIV virus from establishing infection in exposed, uninfected individuals, but also holds the hope of eliminating the virus from people who are already infected.
The Gates Foundation had already supported Picker's team, which includes VGTI scientists Scott Hansen, Ph.D., Klaus Frueh, Ph.D., Jay Nelson, Ph.D., Patrizia Caposio, Ph.D., Dan Streblow, Ph.D., Victor DeFilippis. Ph.D., and Michael Axthelm, DVM, Ph.D., with an $8 million grant in January 2012.
The new grant allows the Picker team to test the safety of a prototype human version of the vaccine in a phase I clinical trial in humans. It will also help the team develop an optimized version of the vaccine suitable for larger scale efficacy testing. Although the current grant will be primarily focused on a preventative vaccine for HIV/AIDS, the same technology will be applicable to a therapeutic vaccine designed to treat already HIV-infected individuals on antiretroviral therapy with the goal of curing these individuals.