WASHINGTON — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced $287 million in grants on Wednesday to create an international network of 16 labs to try new approaches to making a vaccine against AIDS. The foundation says it wants the program to transform the so-far unsuccessful AIDS vaccine effort by rewarding individual labs that come up with innovative ideas and helping them develop those ideas, but also ensuring that they collaborate with other researchers, who under ordinary circumstances would often be considered rivals. ‘This is the foundation’s largest-ever investment in HIV vaccine development. In fact, it’s our largest-ever package of grants for HIV and AIDS,’ Dr. Nicholas Hellmann, acting director of the Gates Foundation’s HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health program, told reporters in a telephone briefing. AIDS was first described in 1981 and the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS was found soon after — but it has proven extremely difficult to find a way to make an effective vaccine. The virus attacks the very immune cells that are usually stimulated by a vaccine, and mutates quickly to evade back-up immune responses. More than 30 vaccines are being tested in people now, but no scientists expect that […]

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