UK drug giant, GlaxoSmithKline, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative have signed on the dotted line in a public-private partnership – the first of its kind between IAVI and a major vaccine company – in a bid to develop a vaccine to combat AIDS.

Under the terms of the agreement, the financial details of which have not been disclosed, IAVI and GSK aim to develop a vaccine using vectors that are not infectious to humans, but are hoped to stimulate specific immune responses directed against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The pair will form a joint research and development committee, which will initially focus its attention on vaccines designed to elicit immune responses against variants of HIV that are currently circulating predominantly in Africa, although the goal of the collaboration is to develop vaccines that would be applicable worldwide.

“This partnership is a model for how the public and private sectors can work together. The private sector has an immense amount of knowledge, resources and expertise, and innovative partnerships such as this are essential to tackle the biggest global health challenges,” said Jean Stéphenne, president and general manager of GSK Biologicals, the company’s Belgium-based vaccines unit.

The announcement comes in the lead up to the G8 summit in Scotland in July, where world leaders are expected to expand support for research of vaccines against AIDS, as well as other developing-country diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, and spur private investment in vaccines against diseases of the developing world. “An AIDS vaccine is essential in the fight against disease and extreme poverty in the developing world, particularly in Africa,” said Hilary Benn, UK secretary of state for international development. “This agreement demonstrates the kind of collaboration between the public and private sectors that is critical for enhancing the research and development of new vaccines against the world’s most devastating infectious diseases.”