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India Launches a New Lab for HIV Research

Viral target. New lab in India hopes to develop a vaccine against HIV (above, being released by infected cells).

National Institutes of Health

NEW DEHLI—On Monday, India opened a $12 million, government-backed laboratory whose mission is to create a new vaccine against HIV. The HIV Vaccine Translational Research Laboratory, which aims to recruit about 30 scientists, is embedded within the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, a $200 million facility under development on the outskirts of New Delhi. It will work in collaboration with the New York based-International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI); operating costs will be shared equally.

India has the world's third largest burden of AIDS, despite the fact that "HIV infections have declined by 56% during the last decade, from 270,000 in 2000 to 120,000 in 2009," says India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. He says there is a desperate need for a vaccine against HIV.

"Designing a new broad-spectrum HIV vaccine will be the mandate of this new lab," says Margaret G. McGlynn, CEO of IAVI. The goal is achievable, she says: "Researchers have long known that after a few years of infection, a minority of HIV-positive people produce antibodies that can neutralize a broad spectrum of HIV variants." The aim is to find a suitable broad spectrum antibody for the purpose. McGlynn says the plan is to make and test a vaccine in India, which she says is "suitably placed with its talented scientific manpower, well-established pharma industry, and a huge commitment from the government."