HIVACAT public-private partnership for HIV vaccine development
The development of an effective vaccine is the only affordable and sustainable way to halt the HIV pandemic. In response to this challenge, the "HIVACAT" program was launched in 1995to design, develop and test potential HIV vaccine candidates in clinical trials for further development and regulatory approval. HIVACAT is a joint effort by two leading European HIV research institutions - the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona and Irsicaixa - and brings together the expertise and projects of more than 60 investigators from both centers. Esteve's involvement started in 2008 and consists of financing part of the research phase and helping with regulatory and intellectual property issues. Once proof-of-concept in humans is reached, Esteve will take care of submission for regulatory approval and commercialization. The program tackles some of the current roadblocks in HIV vaccine design, including the incomplete knowledge of host immune control of HIV, viral sequence diversity and adequate vaccine vector design. Through extensive national and international collaboration and the stature of its members, the program is well integrated in the global effort to develop an HIV vaccine. The program is structured in 8 highly interactive lines of investigation that address cellular and humoral immunity to HIV and their relationship with viral control, assess the impact of viral sequence diversity and host genetics on vaccine immunogen design and study the function of dendritic cells as vaccine carriers. It contains a straightforward path to design preventive vaccine approaches and select the most promising candidates for clinical trials. The work is strongly supported by a unique access to patients and the proven ability of the two centers to conduct extensive clinical trials and cohort-based studies. The project is advancing at good pace. In the last months several important papers on the research have published, the latest in "Nature Medicine" (Feb 2010) about how innate immune mechanisms can control disease progression in HIV-positive patients.