The mission of the Department of Retrovirology is
to prepare for and conduct clinical trials (phases I-III) of preventive
HIV vaccines for use in U.S. military members deployed to HIV
endemic areas outside the United States. This mission is supported
through i) the evaluation of candidate vaccines for safety, immunogenicity
and efficacy, ii) the identification and characterization of potential
cohorts for phase III vaccine trials, iii) the establishment of
diagnostic assays which differentiate infection from vaccine-induced
immune responses, and iv) the establishment of virologic methods
to characterize the HIV viruses circulating in risk areas and
potential sites of vaccine trials and immunological methods to
characterize the responses induced by candidate vaccines.
The department has recently completed the largest phase III HIV vaccine trial (RV144) conducted in Rayong and Chon Buri Provinces, Thailand, which enrolled more than 16,000 volunteers. This study showed for the first time that the vaccines - ALVAC-HIV and AIDSVAX B/E - provided modest efficacy and has offered insight for future research. This study also led to the most important discovery in the HIV vaccine research - the correlate of vaccine protection was discovered contributing to the vaccine efficacy. This collaborative study included more than 300 members of staff and multiple academic and governmental partners.
Current projects include follow-up studies of the completed phase III HIV vaccine trial. The Department of Retrovirology has the longer term goal of developing a portfolio of newer candidate vaccines for phase I-II testing, to include a subtype E (CRF01_AE) MVA vaccine candidate, DNA/MVA candidate, prime-boost regimens, and adjuvants. In addition, the department is developing new collaborations for studies of HIV care and treatment.
The focus of the work done by the Department of Retrovirology has been HIV vaccine development, and the science necessary to move vaccines from Phase I to Phase III testing. The research capabilities of the department include: clinical trials execution, epidemiology, molecular characterization of viruses, viral culture, cellular immunology, humoral immunology and innate immune responses.
The department has been engaged with research studies since the establishment of the Department in 1992 under the leadership of our past Department Chiefs. Currently, there are 16 protocols actively implemented within the department ,which is staffed by 4 physicians, 5 Ph.D. laboratory scientists, 17 clinical research staff, 40 laboratory technologists, and 17 quality assurance, research support and administrative staff. There are also some 8 protocols under scientific review or IRB submission, to be implemented within the coming years. We are at the forefront of the battle against HIV to protect U.S. troops from infection and to reduce the global impact of the disease.
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