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WRAIR Researchers Are Among 2014’s "Most Influential People in Vaccines"

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Cols. Nelson Michael and Jerome Kim of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) made the list of the top 50 most influential people in vaccines for the first time in 2014, joining the ranks of people like Bill Gates, top pharmaceutical executives, and world health officials. A vaccine industry group called Vaccine Nation generates this list each year in collaboration with the World Vaccine Congress Europe.

Col. Michael has been the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at WRAIR since January 2006, and guided it through completion of the RV144 HIV prime-boost vaccine study. This clinical trial, an international collaboration that involved more than 16,000 Thai volunteers, provided the world’s first demonstration that a preventive HIV vaccine was possible.

Dr. Michael’s research interests include HIV molecular pathogenesis and host genetics, HIV clinical research, and HIV vaccine development. He is a Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University (USU). He currently serves on President Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and multiple scientific steering committees for the NIH and the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator. In 2013 he was inducted into the Association of American Physicians and was recognized as a Hero of Military Medicine.

Jerome H. Kim, M.D. is currently Principal Deputy of MHRP and Chief, Department of Molecular Virology and Pathogenesis at MHRP. He also serves as the HIV Vaccines Project Manager, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. Dr. Kim served as Chief of the Department of Retrovirology at the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS), Bangkok, during the RV144 vaccine trial. As the Product Manager for HIV vaccines, he played a critical role in the clinical trial’s execution and subsequent scientific analysis of the results.

Dr. Kim’s research interests include HIV molecular epidemiology, host genetics, and HIV vaccine development. He is a Professor of Medicine at USU, and was recently presented the USUHS John Maher Award for Research Excellence for work related to the identification of correlates of protection in HIV vaccines.

Shortly after the results of RV144 were announced, MHRP organized a vast collaborative scientific effort to analyze the results under the leadership of Drs. Michael and Kim. MHRP and AFRIMS staff coordinated the distribution of thousands of samples from RV144 to 27 investigators around the world. In April 2012, the first paper was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, detailing clues about the immune responses that may have played a role in protecting some volunteers from HIV in the RV144 HIV vaccine trial. Over 30 papers have followed, including ones in Nature, Science Translational Medicine, Immunity and The Lancet ID, providing new insights to inform future HIV vaccine development.

More recently, MHRP, AFRIMS and USMRMC have been working collaboratively with the Thai government to build on the success of RV144 by accelerating the development and testing of a similar pox-protein HIV vaccine prime-boost regimen in Thailand. An implementing arrangement signed in 2014, which is part of a formal Science and Technology Agreement between the two countries, commits the Thai government to provide capacity to manufacture the vaccine in Thailand if it is found to be efficacious in large-scale clinical testing. The Thai government issued a request for proposals for the bio production facility in August 2014.

WRAIR is not the only federal lab represented on the list! There are several others from NIH as well. Check out the entire top 50 or learn more at Vaccine Nation.

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