WINNIPEG, Nov. 1, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada's scientists are making an impact in the global search to find an HIV vaccine, and that's good news for the 81 per cent of Canadians who think HIV-vaccine development should be a priority.
A recent Probe Research survey found that of the 1,500 Canadians surveyed, 19 per cent said HIV-vaccine development should be a "top priority" for Canada to engage in on the international stage. Another 62 per cent said Canada's contribution should at least be a "major priority".
"Canada has some of the world's leaders in HIV virology, clinical and epidemiology research, immunology and vaccinology," says Frank Plummer, Scientific Director General, National Microbiology Laboratory, and Chief Science Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada. "Canada has several strengths in HIV research, among them are Canada's long-term ties to regions of the world most affected by HIV. These endeavours have allowed Canadians the opportunity to work and collaborate with some of the leading African scientists and understand the HIV pandemic better than many other researchers," he says.
Proof of Canada's important role in HIV-vaccine development is evident in the published research by Canadian investigators.
A new white paper by the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative (CHVI) Research and Development Alliance Coordinating Office (ACO) shows that over the past five years Canada has ranked fourth globally in the total number of scholarly articles published on HIV vaccine-related research. It is also first per capita in the number of articles produced when compared to other leading nations involved in HIV-vaccine research. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia produced the majority of these publications, while Manitoba published fewer articles, but had the most per capita.
Keith Fowke is a professor at the University of Manitoba and a visiting lecturer at the University of Nairobi, who has been studying innate protection from HIV infection among some sex workers in Kenya for the past 25 years. He says collaboration is critical in HIV research because one centre can't do everything. "Finding a vaccine is a puzzle of unbelievable complexity and not one group has all of the pieces. Collectively we need to contribute our skills and knowledge and that will give us the full picture."
One of Canada's most highly published researchers, Mark Wainberg, professor and director of the McGill AIDS Centre at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, was among the first in the world to identify the problem of HIV drug resistance.
"Nothing is more important than the development of a vaccine. The virus continues to spread and to wreak havoc around the world, in developing countries especially. We need to have a better way of protecting people," says Wainberg. "There are other ways to address HIV, such as testing and treating. Work needs to be done in all areas, but it's so important that we have a vaccine to stop the transmission of the virus," he says.
With the support of SHI Consulting Inc., the ACO recently consulted with HIV vaccine researchers, industry, funders, and non-profit organizations across Canada and the U.S. for strategic direction on Canada's ongoing contribution to HIV vaccine development. It subsequently released its White Paper, entitled Building Linkages, Achieving Impact: A Framework to Guide the Canadian HIV Vaccine Research and Development Alliance, which highlights Canada's strengths in HIV vaccine research and the direction moving forward.
The CHVI is Canada's contribution to the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a five-year collaborative initiative between the Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and represents a significant Canadian contribution to global efforts to develop a safe, effective, affordable and globally accessible HIV vaccine. The ACO was established by the Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2011 at the International Centre for Infectious Diseases (ICID), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ACO is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
For more information, read the backgrounder.
SOURCE: Alliance Coordinating Office
Communications Specialist, Alliance Coordinating Office
International Centre for Infectious Diseases