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Institute for Human Virology wins grant to help with HIV vaccine development

The Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has received a $14.4 million federal grant to tackle a hurdle in the development of an HIV vaccine.

Scientists are unable to produce long-lasting antibodies that protect against HIV infection, said Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the Homer & Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor of Medicine and director of the institute.

"Since our group co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS in the early 1980's, I have long stated that any successful vaccine would need to block HIV infection from the start given the nature of retroviruses and HIV's aggressive replication cycle," said Gallo, who co-discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS in 1984 and helped develop a blood test for it. "In order to do this, we must have persistent antibodies to protect against HIV."

Gallo and a team are currently working in early clinical trials for a vaccine and will use the funds from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to try and learn why antibodies do not sustain in the case of HIV.

"We believe this antibody durability challenge is solvable," Gallo said.

--Meredith Cohn

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