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Developing a new AIDS vaccine

International research alliance supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The research alliance comprising researchers from the Department for Genetics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), led by Prof. Dr. Falk Nimmerjahn, and Harvard University, Oxford University and the Scripps Institute in the USA, have received eight million dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to research new HIV vaccination strategies.

Although it is possible to repress the immune deficiency (AIDS) caused by the HI virus for an extended period of time, so far there is no effective vaccination strategy to prevent infection. Furthermore, some of the medications currently available have serious side effects. The financed project aims to develop new techniques and methods to ascertain the success of new vaccination strategies as quickly as possible. One major obstacle to the development and use of new vaccines is the very long period between vaccination and obtaining proof of successful protection from infection. This leads to significant delays in the further development and optimisation of new vaccination strategies that could be essential in protecting people against HIV infection.

The main contribution to this project from the FAU working group led by Prof. Nimmerjahn will be their experience on how antibodies work. Recent discoveries indicate that antibodies could play an important role in preventing HI virus infection. Antibodies are protein molecules that can be produced exactly for each invading microorganism and thus prevent re-infection by the same pathogen. Protein molecules’ sugar side chains appear to play an important role in how virus specific antibodies work. Thus, as part of this project, immunisation strategies will be developed that create virus specific antibodies with a sugar structure which, in turn, are particularly efficient at destroying the infected cells.

Further information for the press:

Prof. Dr. Falk Nimmerjahn
Tel.: 09131/85-25050
fnimmerj@biologie.uni-erlangen.de