CFAR Seminar: Structuring an Effective AIDS Vaccine

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Location: Pelton Auditorium, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Gary Nabel, MD, PhD

Director, Vaccine Research Center National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Though antiviral drugs have shown promise in preventing HIV infection recently, a vaccine represents the single most important intervention that could hasten the end of the AIDS pandemic. The development of a vaccine poses an exceptional research challenge, and progress has been slow, but among developments that have renewed optimism has been the isolation of exceptionally broadly neutralizing antibodies derived from HIV-infected subjects. At the VRC, we have used structure-based rational vaccine design to identify a human antibody, termed VRC01, which neutralizes more than 90% of naturally circulating viruses. Thousands of additional related antibodies have now been defined by deep sequencing. They recognized the highly conserved CD4bs of the viral envelop required for entry. Understanding how this antibody recognizes the virus and how it is generated provides critical insight into the design of an AIDS vaccine. Such monoclonal antibodies also confer passive protection against lentiviral infection in nonhuman primates and can be used to develop novel immune-based prevention strategies. A combination of lack of a predictive animal model and as yet undefined biomarkers of HIV protection necessitate that clinical trials, including active vaccination and passive protection, be performed to define an effective vaccine.


Dr. Gary Nabel serves as Director of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Nabel provides overall direction and scientific leadership of the basic, clinical, and translational research activities of the VRC and guides development of novel vaccine strategies against HIV and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, including Ebola/Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, influenza, chikungunya and other viruses. Under Dr. Nabel’s leadership, the VRC was able to initiate its first clinical trial, a Phase I study of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, within a year after opening, and has developed an HIV candidate vaccine that is presently in a Phase II efficacy trial. Dr. Nabel also serves as Chief of the Virology Laboratory at the VRC, which examines molecular regulation of HIV replication, optimization of immune responses to gene-based vaccination, and development of improved HIV envelope immunogens. Dr. Nabel graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1975 and continued his graduate studies at Harvard, completing his Ph.D. in 1980 and his M.D. two years later. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Baltimore at MIT’s Whitehead Institute. Before his appointment at the VRC, Dr. Nabel served as the Henry Sewall Professor of Internal Medicine, professor of Biochemistry, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In addition to his faculty positions, Dr. Nabel also served as the Director of the Center for Gene Therapy and co-director of the Center for Molecular Medicine at the University of Michigan. In recognition of his expertise at the forefront of virology, immunology, gene therapy, and molecular biology, Dr. Nabel has been a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences since 1998, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010. Among his many other honors, Dr. Nabel has received the Amgen Scientific Achievement Award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service, and election to the American Association of Physicians and the American Association for Advancement of Science. Note:

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