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2018-08-27 Print

The Campbell Foundation Awards Grant to Advance Development of HIV Vaccine

The $88,000 grant will expand on existing HIV vaccine development.


The Campbell Foundation has awarded James Munro, PhD, of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, an $88,000 grant to address some key questions that grew out of the HIV-1 vaccine trial (RV 144) in Thailand. That trial, which included 16,000 volunteers, demonstrated a modest level (31 percent) of protection against HIV-1 infection, and to date has been the only vaccine trial that has demonstrated any level of success.

Subsequent analyses of that research indicated that this modest protection was linked to the generation of antibodies that targeted infected cells via antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). ADCC is one of the mechanisms through which antibodies can act to limit and contain infection.

Munro is working to understand whether the strains of HIV-1, which predominate in the Thai AIDS epidemic, are susceptible to ADCC and whether the antibodies that function through the ADCC mechanism have a specific effect on the structure of the envelope protein that is essential to HIV transmission, which, in turn would need to be considered in the development of a future vaccine.

“We are using a contemporary single-molecule imaging approach, which directly reports on the structural and dynamic features of the envelope protein in HIV-1, in parallel with assays that
report on ADCC activity,” said Munro. “We hope that these experiments will contribute to the design of HIV-1 vaccine candidates that could provide protection via the ADCC mechanism.” Munro is in the department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University School of Medicine. He also teaches at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts.

The Campbell Foundation is dedicated to funding novel strategies to treat and cure HIV and AIDS. In determining whether to fund Munro’s research, the foundation’s Peer Review Board, made up of seasoned HIV/AIDS researchers, gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.

“A vaccine to prevent HIV is the Holy Grail for AIDS researchers. Until now creating one has been elusive. But scientists are getting closer than ever before,” said Campbell Foundation Executive Director Ken Rapkin. “We are excited that Dr. Munro’s team is expanding on existing research in this area, particularly given the fact that South Florida is ground zero for new HIV cases.”

About The Campbell Foundation
The Campbell Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn as a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It focuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. In its 23nd year, the Campbell Foundation has given away $11 million, with about $1.2 million going to direct services.

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