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March 23, 2017

Penn researcher granted $16.3 million toward HIV vaccine development

Funding will be spread over five years

A University of Pennsylvania professor and researcher has been awarded $16.3 million in funding over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to continue work toward developing an HIV vaccine for humans.

Dr. George M. Shaw, Ph.D, who teaches hematology, oncology and microbiology at Penn’s the Perelman School of Medicine, will lead the continuation of his pivotal research using lab monkeys injected with a model of HIV infection called simian-human immunodeficiency virus, which has proven to be groundbreaking in a previous study in the hunt toward creating an effective vaccine.

Despite decades of funding and research, an HIV vaccine for humans has not been developed. One of the major obstacles for researchers, which Shaw’s work targets, is the virus’s ability to rapidly mutate or fuse itself with the host cell, which can lead the viral genes to enter the host cell, replicate and eventually cause cell death.

But what researchers, including Shaw, have come to understand, according to Penn Medicine, is that the virus also has the potential to turn on itself “by eliciting antibodies that could ultimately lead to their very demise.”

Penn Medicine notes that this discovery is the cornerstone of Shaw's work in the lab, where he and his team will spend the next five years working with SHIV-infected rhesus macaque monkeys in the search for an effective HIV vaccine for humans.

More on the work can be found at Penn Medicine.

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