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The Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) centre, founded by local scientists, is a model for developing country research institutions capable of rigorously evaluating AIDS vaccine candidates, according to an article in USAID's FrontLines magazine.

KAVI was founded in 1999, with support from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), to develop a vaccine against the HIV strain most prevalent in Kenya. Since then it has built research capacity in Africa and developing partnerships across the continent that can address other health issues

"We had faith in KAVI's ability to conduct these studies, though that confidence wasn't always shared by others," Gwyneth Stevens, IAVI's director of clinical laboratories in Africa, told FrontLines. "Some people in wealthy countries have a certain attitude toward the developing world: things just can't be done quite as well in those places.

"Our programme has shown that, given the right support, research labs in developing countries can work at standards as high as any you'll find in the United States and Europe," said Stevens.

KAVI has completed four Phase I trials and one Phase II trial, and is conducting two additional Phase I studies, as well as epidemiological research and other projects. New research projects at KAVI's two clinics in Nairobi and Kangemi, are run entirely by local staff — a remarkable vote of confidence in the capabilities of the African researchers, says FrontLines.

"It is very gratifying to see how our joint efforts over the years to build capacity for AIDS vaccine research are paying off," said Gloria Omosa-Manyonyi, principal investigator at KAVI.

Thanks to its success, KAVI became the first in a network of 11 IAVI-sponsored clinical research centres in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

"KAVI has been able to extend its work beyond HIV vaccine research and to develop partnerships with organisations addressing a variety of other health issues of importance to Kenya," said Margaret McCluskey, senior technical advisor for HIV vaccines at USAID which funded KAVI.

Link to full article in USAID FrontLines