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Framework programme: 5
Project number:
EC contribution: € 2 995 986
Duration: 36 months
Type: RS
Starting date: 1 February 2000
Graphic element European Network for Vaccine Evaluation in Primates: Combined Vector Immunisation for AIDS Vaccine Development
Keywords: Vaccine network; non-human primates; HIV vaccine


This project has led to the formation of a horizontal network of EU participants, all with access to biocontainment facilities suitable for holding macaques infected with pathogens and supporting infrastructure needed to evaluate vaccines effectively. A proof of principle demonstration of an effective coordinated multi-centre vaccine study is being executed, using recombinant vectors to develop a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.


Progress in the development of novel vaccines against many of the infectious diseases that pose a threat to human health, for example HIV, HCV, TB, and Malaria, is restricted by the availability of suitable challenge models, and access to the biocontainment facilities and infrastructure necessary for working with animals infected with human pathogens safely. This problem is most acute when simian models are needed. Within Europe, there are few institutes with adequate facilities, thus restricting opportunities for large multi-variate evaluation of vaccines in a readily comparable manner. No single European country has the required infrastructure. Only a network can therefore generate the critical mass of human and structural resources.

AIDS is a major threat to global human health. According to a WHO estimate, more than 50 million people have been infected globally and over 16 000 new HIV infections occur daily. There is, therefore, a critical need for an effective vaccine against HIV. A major hurdle is the failure to identify correlates of immune protection against AIDS. Thus, there is a need for animal challenge models to evaluate the efficacy as well as the immunogenicity of candidate vaccines. Experimental infection of macaques with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is believed to represent the best model of infection and disease for HIV and AIDS in man. However, the worldwide availability of the facilities and resources for handling infected macaques with SIV under appropriate biocontainment is limiting the size and scope of the preclinical studies using this model.


Recombinant vector vaccines expressing HIV-1 proteins are believed currently to provide the best approach to develop a safe and effective AIDS vaccine. However, experiments using a single recombinant vector often failed to elicit strong serological and cellular immune responses, even after multiple immunisations. The central objective of this proposal is, therefore, to identify which combination of recombinant vaccine vectors are most immunogenic and confer the best protection against viral challenge.

To address this challenge for AIDS vaccine development, AIDS research facilities in Europe with biocontainment facilities suitable for holding SIV-infected macaques are conducting an AIDS vaccine experiment in macaque monkeys, using as vaccine vectors modified vaccinia virus Ankara, Semliki Forest virus and plasmid DNA. These constructs express SIVgag/pol, env, tat, rev, and nef genes or irrelevant genes as control. The immunised animals will be challenged mucosally with a pathogenic SIV. During the immunisation phase and thereafter, blood samples from these animals will be analysed quantitatively for viral-specific antibodies and cellular immune responses, as well as viral replication and concentration after challenge exposure. At the end of the experiment, data analysis conducted by each partner will be shared among all participants and compared. This will allow an in-depth analysis of the group data. The completion of this study will demonstrate an effective working partnership between the participants.

Expected results:

The results will demonstrate which combination of vector immunisation is best suited for the further development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine.

Potential applications:

The project already demonstrates that multi-centre controlled vaccine studies can be conducted through a network of European facilities housing non-human primates under appropriate biosafety conditions. The results will contribute to the development of a vaccine applicable for the immune prevention of the HIV infection and AIDS in man.


Gerhard Hunsmann
Deutsches Primatenzentrum (DPZ
Kellnerweg 4
37077 Göttingen
Tel: +49 551 3851 155
Fax: +49 551 3851 184


Official Address Other Information
2Martin CranageCentre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR)
Porton Down
UK-SP4 0HG Salisbury
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1980 612504
Fax: +44 1980 611310;
3Neil AlmondNational Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC)
Blanche Lane, South Mimms
UK-EN6 3QG Potters Bar
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1707 654753
Fax: +44 1707 649865
4Steven NorleyRobert-Koch-Institut
Nordufer 20
DE-13353 Berlin
Tel: +49 30 4547 2380
Fax: +49 30 4547 2914
5Fausto TittiIstituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS)
Viale Regina Elena 299
IT-00161 Rome
Tel: +39 06 499 03321
Fax : +39 06 493 87184
6Jonathan HeeneyBiomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC)
Lange Kleiweg 157
NL-2280 GH Rijswijik
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 15 284 2661
Fax: +31 15 284 3986
7Dominique DormontCommissariat á l'Energie Atomique (CEA)
60-68 Av. de la Division Leclerc
FR-92265 Fontenay-aux-Roses
Tel: +33 1 46 54 81 22
Fax: +33 1 46 54 77 26

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