IAVI REPORT – VOL. 15, NO. 4, 2011
Innovation, collaboration, and flexibility have become buzzwords in the HIV vaccine field. But a two-year-old Boston-based research center is taking these matters to heart. The Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard was formed two years ago after Bruce Walker, the Institute’s director, received a US$100 million gift from technology magnate Phillip “Terry” Ragon and his wife Susan. This gift allowed Walker to build a research team that is focused on trying to overcome some of the most challenging obstacles to the development of an HIV vaccine. The team includes researchers with diverse scientific backgrounds, many of whom are new to studying HIV, which adds a unique perspective to their work.
In this issue, we profile The Ragon Institute, focusing in particular on its formation and some of the research projects underway at its labs in Boston and Cambridge (see The House that Bruce Built).
Also in this issue, we report on the main highlights from the International AIDS Society’s Sixth International Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, which took place July 17-20 (see Treatment Is Prevention). Following the release of promising results from trials evaluating the preventive benefits of antiretrovirals (ARVs), the mood at the meeting was jubilant. But given the current economic restraints, there will likely be some difficult and sobering decisions about how to implement earlier treatment of HIV, as well as how to use ARVs as an HIV prevention strategy.
We also feature an interview with IAVI’s new Chief Executive Officer Margie McGlynn, who discusses her career in the pharmaceutical industry and her vision for IAVI (see). Finally, we highlight more recent advances in the discovery and characterization of HIV-specific broadly neutralizing antibodies by researchers at Rockefeller University and the Vaccine Research Center (see ). The advances in isolating broadly neutralizing antibodies keep rolling in. As this issue was headed to press, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute, IAVI, and the biotechnology companies Theraclone Sciences and Monogram Biosciences, reported the isolation of 17 new broadly neutralizing antibodies—most of which are 10 times more potent than the best of the recently isolated antibodies. The study was published online in . More information on these recent discoveries will likely come at next month’s AIDS Vaccine Conference in Bangkok, which we’re gearing up to cover, so follow the for the latest news and look for full coverage in the next issue.