Statement by Administrator Shah on Ground-breaking Discovery in AIDS Research by CAPRISA

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Office of Press Relations

I am pleased to join the CAPRISA consortium in announcing an AIDS study published in the journal Nature Medicine that offers new clues and an important new approach that could help efforts to make an AIDS vaccine. Representing our Agency’s renewed emphasis on harnessing the power of science, technology, and innovation to deliver incredible results in development, the study documents a groundbreaking discovery about the complex relationship between the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and potent antibodies that are able to kill 88% of virus types found throughout the world.

I congratulate our partners in the CAPRISA consortium, led by Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim and supported by CONRAD, involving scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand.

Over the past five years, the CAPRISA investigators have studied how certain HIV-infected people develop very powerful antibody responses, referred to as broadly neutralizing antibodies, which kill a wide range of HIV types from different parts of the world. The research team, in follow-up laboratory studies of two women who participated in the CAPRISA 004 tenofovir gel study [] and who could make these rare antibodies, discovered that the evolution of the HIV virus shapes the types of antibodies that are produced over time. These co-called broadly neutralizing antibodies are able to recognize, target, and bind themselves to the small pieces of a sugar—known as glycan—on the virus and then block it from infecting healthy cells in the body. These antibodies are considered to be essential for an effective vaccine, and a better understanding of how these types of antibodies develop might help in the development of vaccine regimens.

HIV/AIDS continues to impose a global burden, especially on developing countries. As we have seen throughout history, viral infectious diseases are best controlled—sometimes even eradicated—through prevention programs that include a vaccine.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has funded instrumental studies at CAPRISA that have made this discovery possible. As a key implementer of PEPFAR, USAID is a leader in the effort to realize an AIDS-free generation and is committed to the discovery and development of a safe and effective vaccine.

Last updated: October 05, 2017

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