Applications are being sought by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study a vaccine that’s been shown to have protected at least a subset of nonhuman primates from the lethal Simian Immunodeficiency Virus or the Simian-Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The deadline to apply is July 29.
The research objectives are two-fold: to identify the nature, location and timing of immune responses that protect against mucosal SIV/SHIV exposure and to employ a combination of strategies that will inform future studies on curing HIV, according to NIAID funding notice RFA-AI-15-022, which will provide estimated funding totaling $10 million.
“Each applicant is expected to propose a plan that primarily addresses mechanisms of vaccine prevention and also proposes an additional, secondary focus on cure research,” said NIAID, which has made HIV prevention and cure from HIV infection two of its highest research priorities in its Division of AIDS.
These goals remain challenging, according to the institute, because of two HIV characteristics: rapid sequence diversity – which poses difficulties for developing vaccines and therapies – and the ability of HIV to integrate and become undetectable in latent form.
Therefore, an HIV vaccine needs to protect against many different antigenic variants of circulating viruses and drug-resistent mutants that may arise in treated individuals, and there has to be a way to consistently detect HIV in latent form so that cures may be found.
Specifically, the grant will provide funding for a collaborative, multidisciplinary research consortium focused on revealing more details about the mechanisms that allow this protective vaccine to block initial infection or that have prevented systemic infection, according to NIAID’s funding notice, titled Consortia for Innovative AIDS Research in Nonhuman Primates.
“Applicants, having demonstrated efficacy of a vaccine that blocks infection at the portal of entry, or prevents establishment of localized infection, or impedes the spread of infection to lymphatic tissue, or prevents sustained systemic infection with SIV/SHIV,” should propose a research program to identify the action sites and mechanisms “whereby this vaccine exerts its protective effect,” according to NIAID’s funding notice.
The funded research also should focus on innovative approaches that include a vaccine and/or other immune interventions that would become part of a strategy aimed at eliminating SIV/SHIV proviral reservoirs, or that lead to its sustained remission once antiretroviral therapy in nonhuman primates has been discontinued, according to NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
This new funding opportunity continues the Consortia for AIDS Vaccine Research in Nonhuman Primates, “with an expansion to HIV cure efforts by applying lessons learned in preventive nonhuman primate vaccine research and immunology,” according to the grant notice.
In previous trials, for instance, NIAID said evidence has been provided proving that development of an efficacious vaccine may be possible; however, this is only a “modest step forward.”
“A better understanding of the factors that distinguish protected from unprotected animals, as well as assays that accurately predict which vaccinees will be protected, is urgently needed to help guide the improvement of HIV vaccine design and prioritize next-generation vaccines for large-scale human trials,” according to the institute.
The maximum project period is five years. Applications are scheduled for a scientific merit review in November, with an advisory council review to follow in January 2016. The earliest start date for the program is slated for April 2016, according to the grant notice, which may be found online at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-AI-15-022.html.