In a modest ceremony amidst the noise and bustle of downtown Decatur,
Emory dedicated the appropriately named Hope Clinic Wednesday, April
24, perhaps moving one step closer to developing vaccines for the
worlds most lethal infectious diseases.
The clinic, located at 603 Church St., will serve as a headquarters
for translational research on vaccines, bringing basic
research from the labratory to human clinical trials. Emory is home
to a critical mass of vaccine research (especially the hunt for
an AIDS vaccine), and the Hope Clinic will play an integral role
in that work.
I am immensely proud of what this clinic is and represents,
and what it says about the community in which we live and work,
President Bill Chace told the crowd gathered in the clinics
small parking lot. This facility enables the University to
contribute to the community, but perhaps more importantly, it represents
a way the community itself can contribute to the defeat of AIDS.
A handful of speakers, including School of Medicine Dean Thomas
Lawley, Vaccine Research Center (VRC) Director Rafi Ahmed and Hope
Clinic Medical Director Mark Feinberg, took pains to praise each
regiment of the Universitys multipronged attack on AIDS. These
units include the VRC, the Yerkes Primate Research Center, the Center
for AIDS Research, the schools of medicine and public health, the
statewide Georgia Research Alliance, and now the Hope Clinic.
Later that evening, Feinberg delivered a lecture in WHSCAB auditorium
titled Opportunities and Challenges in the Pursuit of an AIDS
Vaccine. AIDS, and other infectious killers such as malaria
and tuberculosis, is proving to be the toughest foe yet encountered
by vaccine researchers, Feinberg said, but that doesnt mean
the fight is without hope.
The development of a safe, effective and affordable HIV vaccine
represents the bestand potentially the onlypracticable
strategy to slow and ultimately stop the spread of the AIDS pandemic,
Feinberg said. Novel AIDS vaccine approaches have recently
achieved impressive results in pre-clinical studies in the laboratory
and in animal models, and are now entering clinical trials in humans.
AIDS is now the top public health threat in the world, Feinberg
said, with an estimated 40 million people infected worldwide and
another 14,000 being added each day. Of those 14,000 daily infections,
he said, more than 95 percent are in developing countries, 2,000
are in children under 15, and about half are among 1524-year-olds
(people in their prime reproductive years).
In the United States, Feinberg said, great reductions in AIDS mortality
have been made recently due to anti-retroviral therapies, but even
these advances may be threatened by a virus that seems to be developing
resistance to the treatment.
However, by far the population most threatened by AIDS is in sub-Saharan
Africa, where a full 70 percent of the worlds infected people
are located. This poses several difficulties toward development
and dissemination of a vaccine including economic disincentives
(these are some of the worlds poorest people) and cultural
and ethical issues.
The Hope Clinic dedication and Feinbergs lecture were not
the only AIDS vaccine-related events on campus last week. On April
22, some of the countrys leading scientific researchers gathered
in WHSCAB for a half-day symposium, AIDS Vaccine Science in
2002: Enduring Challenges and Promising New Directions.