Vaccine venture

New institute in Switzerland looks to target HIV, TB and malaria

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland —Early December saw the inauguration of the new Swiss Institute for Vaccine Research, which will conduct research to fight the three main infectious diseases: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It is also said that the institute will benefit from ongoing vaccine research in cancer and influenza.

The institute is also benefitting, albeit indirectly, from the generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided a grant of  approximately $13.5 million (15 million Swiss Francs) to the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) for similar vaccine research. CHUV is one of the partners in the new institute, and the Swiss federal government is injecting 5 million Swiss Francs for the institute largely because of that foundation grant, according to Claude Comina, head of public affairs for the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of the other founding partners of the institute.

As part of its work, the institute is developing an immunology, microbiology and vaccine research laboratory platform to encourage cooperation between scientists working in the field of HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza and cancer vaccine development in Switzerland, from fundamental to clinical researchers. Vaccines against hepatitis C, Dengue fever and other infectious agents may be developed at a later date.

The institute will initially be based on a partnership between four Swiss institutions. In addition to the CHUV and EPFL, those partners are the Institute for Biomedical Research in Bellinzona (IRB) and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Lausanne branch in Epalinges (LICR).
All four institutions boast strong traditions in the fields of immunology, virology and vaccines against HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and cancer. Other partners may lie in the future, as the new institute intends to seek collaboration with other Swiss institutions.

In addition to targeting specific diseases for vaccine research, the institute also plans more generally to bring up a new generation of scientists who are expert in the field of vaccines by creating several new research groups.

In carrying out its work, the institute intends to work with the most prominent public and private organizations involved in vaccine development, and it seeks to cooperate with industrial partners—as well as encourage other organizations with which it works to do so.

Because the Swiss Institute for Vaccine Research has been based on four partner institutions that were selected for their scientific competence and clinical or laboratory infrastructures in specific areas, the role of each partner is well defined, Comina notes.

The CHUV will conduct the translational and immunology programs for the evaluation of immune responses induced by a vaccine, and it will make available its clinical trial infrastructure.

The EPFL will conduct the fundamental research program in virology, microbiology and vectorology. The EPFL will also make available the infrastructures for proteomics, microscopic and biomedical imaging, protein production, genomics, and high-flow biomolecular screening.


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