HIV gene therapy in development, with boost from Bill Gates

| | October 1, 2015
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In a bid to someday provide people with the ability to fend off HIV, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $5.8 million to vaccine researchers.

A novel genetic engineering approach garnered the award for a Scripps Research Institute group in Jupiter, Florida, who hope to create the first effective HIV vaccine. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, infects about 2 million people worldwide every year.

The key to the new approach is that technically, it isn’t really a vaccine.

Rather than teach the immune system to fight HIV like a standard inoculation, the new method delivers genes into muscle cells and effectively re-engineers our bodies to fight off the virus.

In the group already showed that these genes successfully eliminate the virus from monkeys and protect them from future infections.

Despite the recent promise of gene therapy, some scientists worry that a fully effective human vaccine is still many years away.

“There’s no guarantee that we’ll get an HIV vaccine — the jury’s still out,” Carl Dieffenbach, director of the division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told BuzzFeed News.

With the $5.8 million from the Gates Foundation, Farzan will first test the artificial antibody in cells and then in animals to make sure that it’s safe. Eventually, the antibody — wrapped in its viral packaging — can be tested as a vaccine in individuals at high risk of contracting HIV to see how well it protects them from infection.

Read full, original post: Bill Gates Just Gave $6 Million To Genetically Engineer An HIV Vaccine

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