Victory Alliance Shows Support for Prostate Cancer Survivors

News on September 21st, 2015 Comments Off

The Rochester Victory Alliance attended the “I Support Educate Advocate (SEA) Blue Prostate Cancer Walk/Run” on Sunday, September 21, 2015 at Genesee Valley Park in Rochester, NY.

The Walk/Run helps fund Us TOO International, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, committed to providing prostate cancer survivors and their families with educational resources and support services free of charge.


Outreach workers, Andrew Moran (left) and Chad Brizendine(right), are pictured above – joined by a local clown (center), who was part of the festivities.


Uncategorized on May 12th, 2015 Comments Off

Dr. Larry Corey

Principal Investigator, HVTN

Larry_Corey_2010_51_MASTERFILE_fixed_reduced size

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2015 marks an important milestone in our field with an unprecedented return of energy and optimism.  Several studies evaluating new vaccine regimens are being initiated in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as parts of the US and South America.  The long awaited P5 program has begun, as has the program involving Johnson and Johnson laboratory, Janssen.  There is both enthusiasm and optimism that the milestones for advancement of these new vaccine products will occur and efficacy evaluation will be initiated next year.

Getting to this point has involved the work done by thousands of scientists, clinical staff, community advocates and most importantly, trial volunteers.  Our goal is to develop a vaccine that will make a dent in the epidemic for all high risk groups globally.  In the last few months, we have added an additional biomedical intervention; one we call Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP).  We will also be starting a trial using broadly neutralizing antibodies on a bi-monthly basis to reduce HIV acquisition, in partnership with the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN).  This AMP trial has the potential to be a landmark trial for both HIV prevention and providing a new framework for HIV vaccine development.

In his keynote address at the Keystone Symposia this past March, Dr. Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, outlined the journey we have been on toward an HIV vaccine, and his determination to find one, saying, “We do not have an option for failure.”  With an estimated 2 million new infections in the coming year alone, we know our best long term hope for a sustainable end to the spread of HIV is a safe and effective vaccine, and I can see the finish line.  It will take a lot of hard work.  It will take determination to reach our goal.  Most of all, it will take the teamwork and support of our HIV prevention community, from the networks to the local sites to the communities at large.  It will take the hard work and passion of each of us whose lives have been touched by this disease to say, we will not allow this epidemic to continue.  It will take you.


U of R Begins Trial on Potential Oral HIV Vaccine

News on March 17th, 2015 Comments Off

Published in The Empty Closet,
Article by Adam Young

Researchers at the University of Rochester HIV Vaccine Trials Unit are conducting the first study in Rochester of a potential oral HIV vaccine.

The hope is that by delivering the vaccine in pill form via the “mucosal surface” of the mouth, the immune system’s fight will be strengthened from the get-go.

Dr. Michael Keefer, Director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Unit of the Rochester Victory Alliance at the U of R, is one of the doctors leading the study. “The idea is that by delivering it through these capsules we get it to the place where it can create these better immune responses on mucosal surfaces, which is where HIV first encounters the T4 cells when it causes infection in people,” Dr. Keefer said.

The theory behind the oral delivery of the Harvard-developed vaccine is that the capsules can weather the participant’s stomach acid to reach the immune system at a greater depth and not be inactivated by the stomach. The main component of the vaccine, Adenovirus 26, is expected to trigger an immune response from the body that may be capable of combatting HIV. Though the vaccine may cause some “bug”-like symptoms, Dr. Keefer expects the vaccine will produce no serious symptoms in the trial participants. Since the vaccine contains no living or killed HIV, it is impossible to contract HIV from the vaccine.

The study is a “dose escalation” study. Four groups, each consisting of six HIV-negative participants between the ages of 18 and 40, will be under isolated observation at a site at St. Mary’s Hospital. Assuming the first group tolerates the initial dosage with no serious side effects, the dosage will be gradually escalated throughout each remaining group. Participants will be observed and isolated throughout the duration of the study to ensure the vaccine causes no serious symptoms and to prevent the possibility of spreading the Adenovirus to others.

“Our main concern is that [it’s] safe,” Dr. Keefer said. “Effectiveness is the next thing we want to achieve.”

In order to combat the adaptability of HIV, Dr. Keefer stated the vaccine may need to be combined with other types of HIV vaccines to ultimately be effective. The one-two punch approach may be necessary to prevent virus immunity from fading over time. “We need to get the immune response to recognize the three-dimensional structures as opposed to just the linear structures on the virus,” Dr. Keefer said.

After 27 years of preventive HIV vaccine research, Dr. Keefer believes this oral vaccine could be another piece of the puzzle in moving toward a safe, effective HIV vaccine. He is confident the study will go well and it will move on to larger studies, and ultimately licensure studies. “I could see it making a fast track into larger studies. But this is the first thing we have to do and it does take a while to move through these phases of studies,” Dr. Keefer said.

For more information about the work of the Rochester Victory Alliance, visit or call (585) 756-2329.

Source article first published March 2, 2015:

New AIDS Vaccine Comes in a Capsule

News on January 14th, 2015 Comments Off

Wanted: Volunteers to test an experimental new AIDS vaccine that is needle-free. The catch? You have to be willing to stay locked up in your room for 12 days.

The new vaccine comes in a capsule and it’s made using a common cold virus called an adenovirus, genetically engineered with a tiny piece of the AIDS virus.

It’s only a very early stage experiment, meant to show the vaccine is safe. However, if it is, it could be a start not only towards a much-needed vaccine against the AIDS virus, but needle-free vaccines against many different infections.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center are testing it in their specially designed facility usually used to test live influenza vaccines. The trial, which started Tuesday, is being paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We’ve had success doing this before. The facility is very nice,” says Dr. John Treanor, a vaccine expert at Rochester who’s helping lead the study.

“We try and make sure they eat well and they are entertained. But they do have to stay in there for the 12 days.”

The reason is that the adenovirus used to make the vaccine is “alive” – it can replicate and presumably will spread in the digestive tract. Tests in monkeys show it should be safe, but the researchers are taking extra care because this particular strain, called adenovirus 26, only lives well in humans.

It’s been severely weakened, but so-called live vaccines tend to prompt a stronger immune response than “killed” vaccines.

“We have a strong suspicion that it is going to be safe. It is an attenuated virus,” said Dr. Dan Barouch of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who helped design the vaccine. A similar oral vaccine has been given to hundreds of thousands of young military recruits to protect them against two other common old viruses – adenovirus 4 and 7 – that can cause severe outbreaks on bases.

And scientists hope that using the oral route will activate the immune system via the digestive tract – something that’s worked well before with, for instance, polio virus.

Making an AIDS vaccine has been one of the hardest problems facing medical science. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS has infected nearly 78 million people. About 39 million have died, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, more than 1.2 million people have HIV, and about 50,000 people are newly infected each year. Medications can keep infected people healthy, but there is no cure. Some of the same drugs can also protect people against infection but they must be taken daily, unlike a vaccine.

Doctors have been working to make a vaccine against HIV for decades, but while they’ve had partial successes, nothing has worked as well as vaccines against measles or smallpox.

It’s partly because HIV attacks the very immune cells that are usually mobilized by a vaccine, and partly because the virus cloaks itself in an ever-changing envelope.

The new vaccine was designed using a computer program that’s picked out a batch of these envelope protein disguises from HIV around the world. The hope is that it will help the immune system recognize and respond to a range of disguised HIV proteins.

As the harmless adenovirus spreads, it should activate an immune response. The immune system cells will also “see” the attached bit of HIV and, the researchers hope, react against any HIV virus should the vaccinated person ever be exposed.

Other vaccines have been made against HIV using killed adenovirus. They haven’t worked too well. Barouch hopes that using a live one will work better.

Another reason vaccines made using adenoviruses have not always worked well is because the viruses are so common. People already often have an immune response to them, so the vaccines don’t have time to take hold in the body.

Adenovirus 26, however, is very rare, Treanor says. “It’s an unusual serotype of human adenovirus,” he told NBC News. It has only infected about 5 percent of the population, he said, and doesn’t make people sick. “It does not appear to be associated with any detectable symptoms,” he said.

That suggests the vaccine, if it protects against HIV, could be widely deployed.

And if the capsule form works, so much the better. “On a practical basis, an oral vaccine would be highly desirable, particularly in the developing world,” Treanor said.

And Barouch says there’s no reason a similar vaccine design couldn’t be used to make immunizations-in-a-pill against a range of bacteria and viruses.

UR Tests HIV Vaccine Pill

News on January 14th, 2015 Comments Off

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center are testing a new oral vaccine to prevent infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The vaccine is unique because it is given as a pill, unlike most HIV vaccines tested to date that have been given as shots.

The study is funded and designed by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), which received support for a Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The URMC team and BIDMC are collaborating with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which is helping to organize the study through its Vaccine Product Development Center to provide services to BIDMC grantees.  This is one of the first studies to benefit from this partnership and URMC is the only center in the world testing this vaccine.

The vaccine is made of a live virus called adenovirus, a common cause of respiratory and gastroenteritis infections. The particular type of virus proposed in this study rarely causes any symptoms in adults and has been weakened to further reduce the risk of people getting sick.  It contains a protein that prompts the body to make an immune response against HIV. The study vaccine is not made from actual HIV.

Michael C. Keefer, M.D.

Researchers hope that this oral vaccine will create a more robust immune response against HIV. “We think that an oral approach may be the way to create a more effective vaccine and I’m sure that most people would rather get a vaccine in a pill rather than by yet another shot,” said Michael C. Keefer, M.D., professor of Medicine and director of the University’s NIH-supported HIV Vaccine Trials Unit.

John J. Treanor, M.D., professor of Medicine and chief of Infectious Diseases at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital is leading the study with support from Keefer, who has more than 20 years of experience in the preventive HIV vaccine field. They will monitor how people’s immune systems respond to the vaccine and if the vaccine causes any symptoms.

The University has a long track record of conducting detailed studies of HIV vaccines, but Keefer says that this is the first time an oral vaccine has been tested in Rochester. Though the research is in its early stages, he believes the information collected from this study may help develop a vaccine that could one day become the standard of care.

John J. Treanor, M.D.

Participants must be between the ages of 18 and 40, in good health and not infected with HIV. Participants will be required to spend 12 days and 11 nights at the study center and will be paid up to $2,050 based on their level of participation. To see if you qualify for a study screening, which involves a mini-physical, health questionnaire and blood work, call 585 756-2329.

For Media Inquiries:
Emily Boynton
(585) 273-1757
Email Emily Boynton

Source story published here:

National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Sept. 27, 2014

News on September 23rd, 2014 Comments Off

63% of new HIV infections in the United States
occur among gay and bi men.

1 in 5 gay men in major US cities is living with HIV.
Nearly half don’t know it.


Join the Rochester Victory Alliance for a special awareness night at Tilt Nightclub.

  • Free T-shirts thrown to the crowd
  • Free glow sticks
  • Information tables from local community agencies, including the Rochester Victory Alliance

TILT logo webTilt Nightclub
444 Central Avenue
Rochester, NY 14605

Saturday, September 27, 2014
Doors open: 10:00pm

Modern Era HIV Prevention: Pre-Exposure HIV Prophylaxis (PrEP) and HIV Vaccine

News on May 22nd, 2014 Comments Off

CME/CNE Provided
Thursday June 12, 6:00PM-7:30 PM
Trillium Health
259 Monroe Ave – between S Union & Alexander – parking behind building

Welcome, CME/CNE process, declarations, Trillium PrEP Initiative
● William Valenti MD

PrEP Background/ Science
● Roberto Corales DO

Adverse events/ Adherence strategies/ Cost
● Ashley Zuppelli Pharm D

Behavioral Issues
● Shaw Ree Chen PhD

HIV Vaccine Update
● Michael Keefer MD

● Moderator: William Pellett

Describe/understand the…
● The impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis and vaccine as HIV prevention tools.
● New CDC and NYS Department of Health guidelines for PrEP use.
● Barriers and approaches to implementation of PrEP in real-world practices.
● Current status of HIV vaccine development.


Healthcare professionals: Click here to register!

Bill Valenti: or 585.733.3961
Tom DellaPorta: or 585.275.7655


An Evening of Diversity and Empowerment

News on February 26th, 2014 Comments Off

Sheryl Lee Ralph

National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS 2014

News on February 10th, 2014 Comments Off

UR given $1M grant for HIV treatment, prevention

News on December 10th, 2013 Comments Off

The University of Rochester has received more than a $1 million grant from the Department of Health and Human ServicesNational Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for research on the treatment and prevention of HIV.

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the $1,030,764 grant will fund efforts to develop better treatment methods and standards of care for people living with HIV. That effort includes clinical trials for a preventive HIV vaccine at the University of Rochester Clinical Trials Unit.

The new award from the National Institutes of Health is a renewal of a research program that UR’s Infectious Diseases Division has had since 1987, and will fund UR HIV/AIDS clinical trials through 2018.

"The funding will advance the University of Rochester’s groundbreaking research in HIV treatment and prevention, keep our nation’s top scientists flocking to the Rochester area, and most importantly, it may lead to the development of an HIV vaccine," Schumer said in a statement.

It funds the UR HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Unit and includes research on new treatment options for HIV-positive patients, as well as research studies focused on developing an effective preventive HIV vaccine for those who are not infected with HIV.

"When we invest in new research for HIV, we can unlock discoveries for new treatments and help save more lives, attract even more bright minds to Rochester, and support new economic growth," Gillibrand said.

The grant, headed by Dr. Michael C. Keefer, director of the HIV/AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, comes on the heels of the UR’s new designation as a Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). Only institutions with a certain level of existing HIV/AIDS grant funding are able to compete for a CFAR designation, and UR is now one of 19 CFARs across the country.

"The renewal of our treatment and vaccine research program and our new CFAR designation puts the University of Rochester amongst an elite group of institutions conducting AIDS research in this country," Keefer said. "We are very excited to be able to continue our work to improve the quality of life of those living with HIV and ultimately find a vaccine that will prevent the spread of HIV around the world."

To view the source article, visit: