NEED: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), avian influenza viruses represent an important pandemic threat. Since 1997, several avian influenza sub-types have been introduced from domestic or wild avian reservoirs. These outbreaks have been variable in both duration and severity. H5N1 viruses, which have been introduced repeatedly since 1997, have resulted in over 668 confirmed human cases, including 393 deaths, while H7N9 has caused over 400 human infections, with 175 deaths. Although these viruses do not currently transmit efficiently between people (a prerequisite for an influenza pandemic), laboratory research has shown that they may acquire this ability through mutation.
FOCUS: Because of the unpredictability of pandemic flu, efforts are being made not only to create vaccines but to reduce the amount of vaccine needed per person. The manufacture of safe and effective adjuvants represents an important component of that strategy. IDRI is engaged in partnership with several collaborators to develop pandemic influenza vaccines. In 2015, IDRI received $4 million in funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to develop an adjuvant manufacturing hub with both preclinical and clinical expertise to facilitate pandemic influenza preparedness in developing countries.
The primary goal of the BARDA-funded project is for IDRI to partner with developing country vaccine manufacturers (DCVMs) to develop adjuvanted influenza vaccine capabilities. IDRI will supply sufficient oil-in-water emulsion adjuvant and partner with up to two DCVMs to enhance their pandemic influenza vaccine programs. These adjuvants will be evaluated with antigen through preclinical and clinical studies. As part of this project, IDRI will establish the capacity to manufacture 50 million doses of adjuvant within a three-month timeframe, to provide adjuvants to eligible DCVMs supported through the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines.
Chikungunya is a viral infectious disease that is just making its way into the United States. Outbreaks have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The hallmark of chikungunya, a virus spread through the bite of a mosquito, is its debilitating joint pain that can recur for months or even years.
Within the span of 10 years, chikungunya has gone from a little-known tropical disease to a worldwide threat, identified in more than 60 countries and responsible for upwards of 3 million infections. In the Makonde language of East Africa, where the virus was first identified in 1952, chikungunya means “to walk bent over” or “to become contorted,” a reference to the stooped posture caused by joint pain.
FOCUS: With no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection, there is a need for more scientific research and development. With a gift to IDRI that was matched by the Seattle Foundation, the Remala Foundation has funded a pilot study focused on generating data to apply for larger grants to fund research that can potentially lead to a chikungunya vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 34 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. About 10 % of HIV/AIDS sufferers are children under the age of 15, with more than 1,000 becoming infected each day. Since 1981, more than 25 million people have died from HIV/AIDS.
If left untreated, HIV gradually weakens the body’s immune system, usually over a period of up to 10 years after infection. A person living with HIV is considered to have developed AIDS when his/her immune system weakens to the point it can no longer fight off certain opportunistic infections and diseases. While there are drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, there is no cure.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS. The virus that causes the disease has unique ways of evading the immune system, and the human body does not mount an effective immune response against it. Finding a safe and effective HIV/AIDS vaccine is a top priority.
IDRI is partnering with other scientific organizations to use our adjuvants as a component of a potential HIV cure. IDRI also serves as the fiscal sponsor for the HIV Cure Initiative, an alliance that brings together an international group of leading organizations to develop new pathways to amplify existing efforts to cure HIV.