Partnered with two biotech companies, a scientific team at Scripps Research Institute has identified two antibodies that can block HIV from replicating--a breakthrough that may well lead the way to a new vaccine to guard against the AIDS virus after almost 25 years of fruitless searching.
Scientists found out the hard way that HIV is a notoriously difficult virus to control, capable of multiple mutations that make it a constantly changing target for vaccine makers. But in this new research, scientists focused on a relatively stable portion of the virus. To find the antibodies, the researchers collected samples from 1,800 HIV carriers in Africa whose infections had not worsened, theorizing that they carried antibodies that naturally protected them from the virus.
Two biotech companies played a key role in the research, deploying a new blood screening technology for the work. Monogram Biosciences studied the samples and Theraclone Sciences isolated the antibodies most likely at work. "This is opening up a whole new area of science," said Dr. Seth F. Berkley, president and chief executive of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.