IAVI Opens AIDS Vaccine Laboratory in New York City

On November 12, IAVI celebrated the opening of its AIDS Vaccine Design and Development Laboratory, the first research facility in the world dedicated exclusively to the research and development of an AIDS vaccine. The new lab is housed in an historic building in New York City known as the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT), at which the city and state governments, along with private entities, are developing a state-of-the-art bioscience center. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spoke at the opening of the Design Lab, said investing in bioscience is a way to diversify the city’s economy in troubling economic times. IAVI, the first research group to occupy the center, received US$12 million from the New York City Economic Development Corporation to renovate the laboratory space. “The potential to change the world is right here in this building,” said Bloomberg. “New York City is very glad to partner with IAVI in hastening the day to the development of a vaccine.” 
Scientists at the new Design Lab, working along with a broad network of researchers affiliated with IAVI’s research consortia and partners in both academia and industry, are uniquely positioned to test and develop new vaccine candidates. There are many scientific challenges facing AIDS vaccine researchers and the Design Lab is meant “to focus on these challenges and solve them as quickly as possible,” said Seth Berkley, founder and president of IAVI.

One key challenge is figuring out how to get the immune system to generate protective proteins, known as antibodies, against HIV. All vaccines that are used today induce antibodies, said Dennis Burton, a professor of immunology and molecular biology at the Scripps Research Institute and head of the HIV Neutralizing Antibody Center, who spoke at the opening ceremony as well as a science symposium that was held earlier in the afternoon. Although antibodies against HIV can be found in HIV-infected individuals, “the problem is how to induce them,” said Burton. “We have to get people to make these antibodies themselves, and that’s the goal of vaccination.” And while this has proven much more difficult for HIV than other viruses, “we’re confident that in the end we will defeat this virus,” Burton said. —Kristen Jill Kresge


Opening ceremony for the design lab. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about the city’s commitment to HIV prevention, education, and treatment, but said, in the end “you have to have a vaccine.” 
Photo by Olga Shmaidenko