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Eradication

The beginning of the end for HIV

London - Western University’s Eric Arts, PhD, is leading the only North American site collaborating with the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020) to accelerate the development of an HIV vaccine.

Arts and his team of researchers at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry will help to develop the characteristics of this new HIV vaccine and examine key factors involved with the potential success of an HIV vaccine.

Financed by the European Commission, EAVI2020 brings together leading HIV researchers from 22 institutions in a focused effort to develop protective and therapeutic HIV vaccines. EAVI2020 has received C$33.2 million in funding from an EU-grant under the health program of Horizon 2020 for research and innovation.

While funding from an EU-grant is not available to North American investigators, Western is providing significant support for Arts' participation in EAVI2020, because his leadership is considered critical for this global HIV vaccine initiative.

“In order to be successful in creating an effective HIV vaccine, we need to work as an international team to achieve our goals,” said Arts. “The integration of Canada into this team provides us input, exchange and development of new technologies related to HIV and other infectious diseases. Canada can be a major contributor in the quest to end HIV and AIDS.”

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013. More than two million people are newly infected every year, and it is estimated that approximately C$28.9 billion is spent on HIV treatment and care annually. An effective vaccine remains the best hope of ending the epidemic.

Although researchers have been working on developing a vaccine for 30 years, recent advances are helping to speed up their search. Scientists have isolated antibodies that are able to block HIV infection in preclinical models, and there have been new developments in using synthetic biology to design better vaccines.

“Creating an effective vaccine against HIV represents one of the greatest biological challenges of a generation,” said Robin Shattock, Coordinator of EAVI2020, Imperial College London. “We now understand much more about how humans make protective immune responses and how to structure vaccine candidates. We have a level of understanding at a molecular level that was not previously available.”

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