Overview and History

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The roots of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) began in 1985. Soon after the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a working group was formed at Duke University to make a vaccine for AIDS. Out of this group came some of the first vaccine candidates for AIDS to be tested in patients and volunteers. Because of the extraordinary diversity of HIV and its ability to rapidly mutate, developing a practical and effective HIV vaccine proved far more challenging than initially imagined. In 1990, the Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) was formed to support interdisciplinary efforts across Duke to develop vaccines and therapeutics for HIV and other emerging infections that threaten the health of our nation and our world. Since 1990, DHVI investigators have been at the forefront in the battle against AIDS and specifically in the quest for an HIV vaccine.

In 2002, DHVI received support from the Dean of the School of Medicine to recruit new faculty for HIV research and to apply for a Regional Center for Excellence in Emerging Infections and Biodefense grant from the National Institutes of Health. This large Region IV consortium grant, the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence in Emerging Infections and Biodefense (SERCEB), was awarded in September 2003 to the DHVI and five partners (University of North Carolina, Emory, Vanderbilt, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Florida). The SERCEB grant was established to fund the basic research to make drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to protect citizens from emerging infections such as SARS, avian influenza, dengue and monkeypox.  In 2003, the NIH funded the construction of the Duke Global Health Research Building, an infectious disease research facility and a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL). Completed in 2006, this building is designed to support basic research necessary to develop drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for emerging infections and biodefense, and to provide surge capacity in the event of a public health emergency.

The DHVI now is the home to the NIAID funded Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology, a $350M grant to speed the development of an AIDS vaccine.  Led by Barton Haynes, this effort has had a major effect on the progress of the entire field of HIV vaccine development, and has pointed the way to new progress. A recent example of this DHVI-led progress has been the leadership of the DHVI in the immune correlates analysis of the RV144 vaccine trial. RV144 showed an estimated vaccine efficacy of 31.2%, and the study of the correlates of immunity is a critical opportunity for the field to understand why this trial worked, in order to make future vaccines perform better.

The Duke Human Vaccine Institute has now established a place of national and international leadership in the fight against major infectious diseases such as HIV, TB and influenza. Our investigators understand the power and opportunity of the team approach, a new paradigm for successful research in an academic setting. HIV and TB remain world-wide threats, and only partnerships between academia, governments and private companies can solve these and other difficult problems. By focusing on the “bottlenecks” for the development of HIV, TB, and other vaccines, DHVI investigators are poised to make major new contributions to global health challenges.