Listen To The Story


CHERYL GLASER: It's not easy to destroy something that constantly changes. That's one of the reasons it's been so hard to come up with a vaccine for HIV. But a new $287 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help researchers start from scratch all over again. From the Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports.

JANET BABIN: The search for a vaccine began soon after the AIDS virus was identified back in 1981.

Researchers say part of the reason a vaccine remains elusive is because HIV is a retro virus.It mutates and can hijack your chromosomes.

Many researchers want fresh perspectives on the virus from outsiders and say the grants will help them attract new talent.

Leo Stamatatos is with the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. The Foundation awarded his team $19 million. He says the money will free him up to do research that's too experimental to receive federal funding.

LEO STAMATATOS:"But the Gates Foundation basically says we will try everything. Everything that's new, everything that's can high risk, meaning it might not deliver but something may come out of it, so this is what we're doing now."

But high risks often yield big returns. The Foundation is hoping to find a vaccine in the next 5 to 6 years.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.