Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded nearly $6 million to the scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) for developing a revolutionary HIV/AIDS alternative vaccine that has demonstrated great potential in animal models.
TSRI Professor Michael Farzan will lead the 4 year research. The first grant for the first year study has been awarded by the Gates Foundation.
"I'm grateful to the Gates Foundation for its strong support of our research and for its continued commitment to eradicating HIV/AIDS throughout the world," said Farzan.
Farzan brings an innovative approach to combating HIV. The approach works by coaxing muscle cells into producing inhibitor proteins that block key sites on the virus's surface used to attach and invade human immune cells—fooling the virus into thinking it is binding to a human cell. Unable to attach to cells and reproduce, the virus simply floats impotently in the blood stream.
Farzan and his colleagues research received worldwide attention when announced earlier this year in the journal Nature
. When the drug candidate, called eCD4-lg, was tested in the laboratory and in animal models, the results were so powerful and universally effective that they suggested the compound's potential to serve the role of an alternative HIV/AIDS vaccine. The drug candidate offered complete protection of animal models against the virus for up to one year.
"Our compound eCD4-Ig is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far, effective against all strains tested. At the end of our research, we expect to have enough evidence to develop a firm foundation to fully evaluate its potential as an alternative vaccine," said Farzan.