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The Real World: Viral Pursuit

The Real World: Viral Pursuit

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An international research consortium has set up a cryobank at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering in St. Ingbert, Germany, to store the different types of HIV, which can then be cultured for supply to vaccine researchers. Since 1984 scientists the world over have been in hot pursuit of sufficient viral samples for their vaccine-creation efforts. Unfortunately, the virus mutates so rapidly that there are many variants in existence. The project, being funded in part by a $7.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, started collecting specimens from around the world in September. Researchers separate the immune cells from the plasma, grow viruses in cultures, and store material in the cryobank. "The World Health Organization has designated five countries that are particularly affected by AIDS--Brazil, Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Thailand--and engaged them as partners in the first phase of the project," says project manager Hagen von Briesen. "We are helping to set up local cryogenic labs where specimens can be collected and deep-frozen for transfer to our cryobank." Over the next year the researchers will pilot-test a novel way of collecting HIV specimens in heavily affected countries, using a mobile cryogenic lab touring around South Africa.

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