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Scripps Research Institute Heads Up New Search For HIV Vaccine

The Scripps Research Institute has been awarded a $77 million federal grant to tackle one of the biggest challenges in modern medicine. The institute will try to develop a vaccine against HIV.

Aired 7/11/12 on KPBS News.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Scripps Research Institute a major grant to fund work on an elusive target: an HIV vaccine.

Scripps Research Institute immunologist Dennis Burton will head up the HIV vaccine project.

Above: Scripps Research Institute immunologist Dennis Burton will head up the HIV vaccine project.

The use of condoms and abstinence are two methods that can stop the spread of HIV. But a vaccine that could prevent people from becoming infected is seen as the ultimate weapon.

Scripps Research Institute immunologist Dennis Burton will head up the new project, which will also involve scientists from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology. Burton says coming up with a viable vaccine is incredibly difficult.

"You're actually trying to protect against many different viruses, because the virus is so variable," Burton explained. "Literally, the are hundreds of thousands of different strains of HIV. That's the core of the problem."

Burton and his team will focus their efforts on antibodies that could target some elements of the virus that are common among different strains.

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