GlaxoSmithKline's Big Give to IAVI's Human Vaccines Project

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has been pushing for funding for its Human Vaccines Project since 2013. Meeting with experts from academia, governments and NGOs, IAVI highlighted the potential merits of the project such as innovative antigen discovery, and genomics and immunological monitoring.

From the beginning, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hopped on board, awarding IAVI a grant for nearly $378,000 to get the project off the ground. By 2014, IAVI was holding its first workshop. Now the time has come to move on to the next phase of the Human Vaccines Project.

A recent $350,000 grant from GlaxoSmithKline will work to help establish a global consortium and lay the groundwork for the project’s research program. IAVI's latest program will not focus exclusively on AIDS vaccine R&D. Instead, it will research the human immunome and how people generate effective immune responses with vaccines.

Stanley Plotkin, Chairman of the Human Vaccines Project Steering Committee calls this a “...tremendously exciting time in vaccinology as we move toward prevention of very challenging global killers such as AIDS, TB, malaria, Ebola, and cancers.” Setting the excitement aside, the Human Vaccines Project is going to need a lot more funding in order to achieve its goals.

IAVI has some pretty big funders in its corner, including governments, NGOs, and corporations. But so far, it hasn’t looked as though its Human Vaccines Project has gained that much traction or funding attention from big-name IAVI donors like the Gates Foundation, USAID, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. This could be due to the fact that the project is really in its blueprint phase and these big funders are holding off until they see more measurable results.   

GlaxoSmithKline has been a longtime financial supporter of IAVI, but its latest grant to IAVI is a little bit outside the lines of its grantmaking focus in the U.S. In general, the GSK Foundation awards grants that support projects in education, health and human services, arts and culture, and civic and community.

Related: GlaxoSmithKline U.S. Community Partnership Grants

Much of the company’s HIV/AIDS funding comes out of its offshoot, ViiV Healthcare. The company was formed back in 2009, when GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer jettisoned their HIV assets. ViiV is pretty big, with local offices in 16 countries, which are the primary regions of focus when it comes to its HIV/AIDS giving.

GSK is currently exploring the idea of taking ViiV public sometime this year. What makes this interesting is that the company has a projected £12 billion to £18 billion valuation, should GSK go forward with the IPO. Which could possibly mean a big bump in ViiV’s and GSK’s HIV/AIDS funding after the IPO dust settles.

Related: ViiV Healthcare: Grants for Global Health