New NIH Vaccine Center an Add-ON To Ongoing AIDS Research Efforts

July 1, 1997
Oncology NEWS International, Oncology NEWS International Vol 6 No 7, Volume 6, Issue 7

BETHESDA, Md--The new Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institutes of Health will expand upon efforts to find an effective AIDS vaccine and will neither replace research at universities and other institutions nor diminish their federal funding, William E. Paul, MD, told a meeting of the NIH director's advisory committee. "We see this as an add-on activity," said Dr. Paul, associate NIH director for AIDS research.

BETHESDA, Md--The new Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the NationalInstitutes of Health will expand upon efforts to find an effective AIDSvaccine and will neither replace research at universities and other institutionsnor diminish their federal funding, William E. Paul, MD, told a meetingof the NIH director's advisory committee. "We see this as an add-onactivity," said Dr. Paul, associate NIH director for AIDS research.

In announcing the creation of the center during a graduation addressat Morgan State University, Baltimore, President Clinton also proposed"developing an AIDS vaccine within the next decade" as a nationalgoal.

"There are no guarantees," President Clinton said. He added,however, that "if America commits to find an AIDS vaccine, and weenlist others in the cause, we will do it." The President said hewould encourage other nations to join in a worldwide effort "to finda vaccine to stop one of the world's greatest killers."

At a recent meeting, NIH officials briefed about 50 potential VRC researchersabout the center's goals, organization, and operations. "We look atthis as something we want to do in a hurry-up manner," Dr. Paul said.

The VRC will be a joint venture of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).Initially it will draw together a core of scientists with expertise inimmunology, virology, and HIV vaccine research from the two institutesand others at NIH. Later, other VRC researchers from outside the NIH campuswill be recruited.

NIAID director Anthony S. Fauci, MD, pledged the full support of himselfand NCI director Richard D. Klausner, MD, to the VRC. "We are committedto working as a team to make this center a reality," he told the advisorycommittee.

For now, the new AIDS effort "will function as a center withoutwalls," said NIH director Harold Varmus, MD. "The idea is ultimatelyto have a physical presence on campus, perhaps as a separate building."

The NIH Office of AIDS Research has recommended that NIH allocate $10million for the center in fiscal year 1998, which begins on October 1.The President's budget request for AIDS vaccine research in FY 1998 is$150 million, an increase of approximately 33% since FY 1996. This significantincrease will allow funding for the VRC without a decrease in outside researchgrants.

NIH plans a nationwide search for a scientist with specific expertisein vaccine development to serve as VRC director. Officials envision thehigh-visibility VRC as only a part of the coordinated AIDS vaccine effort.

Dr. Paul said that vaccine development needs "to remarry immunologyand vaccinology," which he described as parting company in the 1920sand communicating very little since. He suggested that the new center mightsucceed at least partially in accomplishing this, as it draws people fromdiverse fields to focus on the problems posed by making an effective AIDSvaccine.

Creation of the VRC emerged from discussions that began last fall amongkey officials of the Department of Health and Human Services, NIH, theCDC, and the White House, said Dr. Varmus, who acknowledged the difficultyof the task ahead.

"There is no guarantee that we can produce a vaccine within 10years," Dr. Varmus said, "but recent advances in immunology andvirology have increased optimism that it can be done."

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