Staff at the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) – whose international HQ is housed in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle – have spent the past two years fanning out across southern Africa, scouting for sites to locate about two dozen new HIV-vaccine laboratories for several thousand prospective patients. This last October, HVTN and Fred Hutch celebrated the grand opening of HVTN’s state-of-the-art HIV vaccine laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa. HVTN is the world’s largest, international collaboration of scientists and educators dedicated to testing vaccine candidates for the prevention of HIV.
Staff and volunteers around the globe work actively to help diverse communities understand the science of HIV/AIDS vaccines, as well as dispel myths about HIV research methods and clinical trial processes. The new Cape Town laboratory, supported by a large capital grant from the Gates Foundation, aims to be the epicenter of HVTN’s wider effort to treat regions in Africa that have the greatest need. The lab is a prime example of the Fred Hutch Center’s strategy of seeding new, synergistic international research collaborations. “That’s a really important goal – to partner with African scientists and clinicians to lay a foundation for research that extends beyond the HVTN,” says Julie McElrath, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president and director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch.