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Cablegate: Russia: Hiv Vaccine Researchers Look Ahead

VZCZCXRO1695
RR RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMO #3429/01 1941006
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131006Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2057
INFO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK 5425
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 3104
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2553
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2247
RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003429

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/IHA AND EUR/RUS
USAID FOR GH, E&E
HHS FOR OGHA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KHIV SOCI SCUL RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: HIV VACCINE RESEARCHERS LOOK AHEAD

MOSCOW 00003429 001.2 OF 002


THIS CABLE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET
DISTRIBUTION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The NIH-sponsored HIV Vaccine Workshop in St.
Petersburg June 1-2 brought together over 50 researchers and
government representatives from the United States and Europe to
discuss recent HIV candidate vaccines and the prospects for clinical
vaccine trials in Eastern Europe. Significantly, Russia's three
main vaccine research groups engaged in serious collaborative
discussions, after years of intense rivalries and mutual mistrust.
The workshop served as a useful framework to guide research funding
and clinical trial decisions in Eastern Europe over the next five
years. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The agenda for the workshop sponsored by the U.S. National
Institutes of Health (NIH), "Status of HIV Vaccine Research: An
Exploratory Workshop on Perspectives and Potential for HIV Vaccine
Development" included sessions on:

-- Development of a vaccine research agenda, from basic research and
discovery of vaccine candidates to clinical trials;

-- The predominant strains of HIV circulating in Eastern Europe and
Russia, and whether to match regional strains to the development of
regional vaccines;

-- An overview of HIV candidate vaccines, including DNA, protein,
pox virus vector, and combination vaccines; and

-- The prospects for clinical trials in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and
the Baltic Countries.

3. (U) At the opening of the workshop, Oleg Chestnov, Deputy
Director of the Russian Health and Social Development Ministry's
International Department, suggested that participants engage in
dialogue on common approaches and plans for vaccine development. At
the workshop's conclusion, participants proposed a series of
recommendations for future collaboration, including:

-- Formation of a working group to organize annual vaccine research
workshops and lead an effort to develop a National HIV Vaccine
Plan;

-- Formation of a regional research network and improved linkages
with international initiatives like the Global HIV/AIDS Vaccine
Enterprise;

-- Developing capacity in Russia and the region for conducting
cohort studies, updating laboratory technologies and testing of
biological products, and regulatory review of clinical trials;

-- Involvement of the community of people living with HIV/AIDS and
development of appropriate guidelines for ethical conduct of vaccine
trials.

(NOTE: While these are all laudable goals, it is unclear who would
be willing and able to fund and coordinate these activities. END
NOTE)

Comment: Bringing Intense Rivals Together
-----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) For years, intense rivalries between HIV vaccine
researchers in St. Petersburg and scientists from Russia's other
main research centers in Moscow and Novosibirsk have hampered
collaborative research. It was a significant step that all three
groups attended the NIH-sponsored workshop. At other recent
scientific conferences or meetings with the Russian Duma, at least
one of the groups has chosen not to attend, often to deliberately
snub the others. These researchers have also offered competing
visions of HIV vaccine research. Backed by Rector Verbitskaya of
St. Petersburg State University, the St. Petersburg group has
proposed that Russia's northern capital serve as the hub for all HIV
vaccine research, while the Moscow and Novosibirsk groups have
supported Chief Medical Officer Onishchenko's plan to establish a
larger consortium of institutes across Russia that would
collectively conduct this research.

5. (SBU) In a significant moment of detente, Dr. Andrey Kozlov, the
Director of the St. Petersburg Biomedical Institute and the only
Russian scientist currently using a multidisciplinary approach in

MOSCOW 00003429 002.2 OF 002


HIV research, announced that he was willing to help other
researchers develop cohorts of patients for vaccine trials.
Although we suspect Kozlov may ultimately be more interested in
helping researchers in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine rather than
researchers in Moscow or Novosibirsk, he at least offered the olive
branch to his Russian rivals.

6. (SBU) During its G8 Presidency in 2006, Russia pledged to spend
$65 million on HIV vaccine research. Although no official
announcement is expected until August, our contacts state that the
State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (Vector) near
Novosibirsk (under the jurisdiction of Chief Medical Officer
Onishchenko) will get the lion's share, receiving $40 million over
the next three years to conduct HIV vaccine research. St.
Petersburg and Moscow researchers will likely only receive $20
million and $7 million, respectively, although the St. Petersburg
group is now heavily lobbying the government to receive a larger
share. One Vector researcher told us that even though the Siberian
institute will receive the biggest chunk of money, it will be
funding cohort development and clinical trials throughout Russia.
The NIH-sponsored workshop thus served to focus the attention of
Russia's leading scientists on how best to allocate research dollars
in coming years.

7. (U) NIH has cleared this cable.

BURNS

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