News and Press Releases

HIV Natural Resistance Field Finally Overcomes Resistance

Dozens of studies have been examining people who fend off HIV despite repeated exposures in an effort to find genetic or immunologic factors that can help guide AIDS vaccine research. But all too often the leads point in contradictory directions, in part because investigators use different assays to probe their samples, and there is little coordination among them. Many labs also use wildly varying criteria to decide who qualifies as HIV-resistant, making it difficult to sort out which study subjects were truly exposed and uninfected, were exposed and have an occult infection, or were never exposed in the first place. At the first-ever meeting on natural immunity to HIV, held from 15 to 17 November, researchers attempted to hammer out these and other issues. Read more.

Researchers come together to study natural HIV resistance

Not everyone who is exposed to HIV becomes infected. In fact, some individuals fail to contract the infection even after repeated exposure to the virus. Researchers all over the world have been working separately for decades to determine what makes these people apparently resistant to HIV. In mid-November, they’ll come together in Winnipeg, the capital city of the Canadian province Manitoba to compare notes and coordinate their efforts.

“It’s really timely,” says Galit Alter, an immunologist at the newly formed Ragon Institute, located at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who is on the symposium’s scientific steering committee. Interest in natural resistance is growing, she says. “We need to make a concerted effort as a community to come together and to try and look at these people in an organized way.” The mechanisms that control natural resistance could be used to develop a new vaccine or new therapies. “Without having this kind of initiative,” she says, “we go nowhere.” Read more.

International Centre for Infectious Diseases, University of Manitoba, Public Health Agency of Canada to Host Major Conference on Natural Immunity to HIV/AIDS

For Immediate Release – Nov 10, 2009

WINNIPEG, CANADA – More than 75 of the world’s top HIV/AIDS researchers will assemble in Winnipeg, Canada, this weekend to discuss the phenomenon of natural immunity to HIV/AIDS.

The International Centre for Infectious Diseases (ICID), the University of Manitoba and the Public Health Agency of Canada are holding the first International Symposium on Natural Immunity to HIV (ISNIH) from November 15 - 17, 2009. The conference is being sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Manitoba and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“One of ICID’s main roles is to bring people together to increase collaboration and spur innovation,” said Heather Medwick, acting President and CEO of ICID. “We hope that this will build and strengthen existing ties between researchers and speed the development of a viable vaccine for HIV/AIDS.”

"We've learned a great deal about this virus but there is much work left to do, said Dr. Frank Plummer, Scientific Director General of the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory.  Bringing together the best minds in the field will help us get there faster, we appreciate the continued support of the Gates Foundation in reaching our goal of an effective vaccine to prevent this devastating disease altogether" 

“University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine researchers have been at the forefront of research on natural immunity to HIV and are proud to bring together the world’s leaders to exchange scientific findings and to create a strategy for working together at the international level toward research discovery and success,” said Dr. J. Dean Sandham, Dean of Medicine, University of Manitoba.

Natural immunity to HIV/AIDS was discovered in some Nairobi sex workers by UM researchers in the 1980s and is thought to be one of the most promising leads for the development of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HIV, but its rarity has made it difficult to establish a critical mass of data from which meaningful conclusions can be drawn. The purpose of the conference is to help build that critical mass by establishing a new, international consortium focusing on the topic.

Objectives of the Symposium include developing a baseline of current knowledge on correlates  of HIV protection; identifying research gaps and partnership opportunities; and establishing a new, international consortium focusing on natural immunity to HIV.

According to the World Health Organization, HIV/AIDS is the fourth most common cause of death in the world, and the single most common cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa.


International Centre for Infectious Diseases
Heather Medwick, Acting President and CEO
International Centre for Infectious Diseases
Tel: 204.946.0908  

University of Manitoba 
Ilana Simon, Director of Communications & Marketing
Faculty of Medicine
Tel: 204.789.3427 or Cell: 204.295.6777

Public Health Agency of Canada
Jana Lerner, Communications Officer 
Public Health Agency of Canada
Tel: 204.789.5046