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Research Group, CureVac Partner on AIDS Vaccine

Nurse giving a vaccine

(Rhoda Baer, National Cancer Institute)

10 September 2015. An organization encouraging development of AIDS vaccines and the pharmaceutical company CureVac are collaborating on creating a potent AIDS vaccine technology. Financial and intellectual property aspects of the partnership between the not-for-profit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, or IAVI, and CureVac in Tubingen, Germany were not disclosed.

IAVI sponsors research and development of vaccine candidates to prevent HIV infections that cause AIDS or stop the spread of HIV virus in the body. Earlier studies revealed a protein serving as the envelope for the virus, known as a trimer, as a promising target for a vaccine. Researchers later designed agents that generate an immune response by simulating this trimer alone without the HIV virus.

The deal calls for IAVI and CureVac to collaborate on a mechanism for delivering these immune-response agents. CureVac’s technology adapts messenger RNA, nucleic acids related to DNA that leave the cell nucleus and go to cells’ protein-making components. Those cell components synthesize human proteins by reading and translating the genetic code in messenger RNA into the appropriate amino acids for that protein.

CureVac will employ its technology to produce messenger RNA that encodes instructions for HIV envelope trimers, with the goal of producing those proteins. The proteins in turn should produce antibodies to attack and neutralize HIV viruses that naturally express the trimers. CureVac and IAVI believe designing an AIDS vaccine around messenger RNA provides a more reliable target and will speed its development and testing.

CureVac’s technology makes possible vaccines that are stable at room temperature and thus do not need refrigeration. The property drew the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supporting public health initiatives in low-resource regions. In March 2015, the Gates Foundation invested €46 million ($52 million) to help CureVac continue developing its technology platforms, and build an industrial-scale manufacturing facility meeting Good Manufacturing Practice standards.

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