UZ Secures US$45 Million Grant to Develop and Test Novel HIV Vaccines


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DT Correspondent

The University of Zimbabwe and regional partners have been issued a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) award of over US $45 million to implement the HIV Vaccine Innovation, Science, and Technology Acceleration in Africa (HIV-VISTA) program.

This is a groundbreaking initiative aimed at developing and testing novel HIV vaccines.

The program will be carried out in an eight-country African consortium led by Prof Glenda Gray, the CEO and President of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC).

The BRILLIANT (BRinging Innovation to cLinical and Laboratory research to end HIV In Africa through New vaccine Technology) consortium comprises leading African scientists from Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Together, they will work towards the development of innovative HIV vaccines tailored to the African context.

The University of Zimbabwe Clinical Trials Research Centre (UZCTRC) will represent Zimbabwe in this prestigious consortium.

Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi, UZ Researcher and Lecturer, and BRILLIANT Principal Investigator said the HIV-VISTA program was significant.

“This program presents a unique opportunity for African scientists to conduct research with communities in the region, testing vaccine immunogens developed and designed in Africa.

“The responsibility to deliver an effective HIV vaccine is a global priority, and we are confident that the HIV-VISTA program will make a significant contribution to this effort.

“The HIV-VISTA program is a major step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa., and the University of Zimbabwe and its partners are honoured to be part of this historic initiative.

“With the combined efforts of the BRILLIANT consortium, we are closer than ever to finding an effective HIV vaccine that will have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of at-risk populations,” she said.

University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Mapfumo said the awarding of the grant is a significant milestone in the national health response.

“This investment in research and innovative technology for vaccine discovery augments the institution’s research capacity in HIV, and in other disease conditions.

“Participating in BRILLIANT supports leadership development of UZ faculty, consolidating research management skills of our growing pool of accomplished scientists and better equipping them to fulfil their role in achieving Zimbabwe’ VISION 2030,” he said.

This milestone achievement aligns with Zimbabwe’s Education 5.0 philosophy, which promotes the development of home-grown innovations and solutions.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has emphasised the importance of nurturing local talents and resources.

The HIV-VISTA program will be the first Zimbabwean project to initiate the HIV vaccine development pipeline, starting from the discovery stage with the goal of producing vaccine candidates specifically suited to the local population.

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