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For more than a century, the military medical community has solved significant international health problems, particularly in the area of tropical infectious diseases. Historically, infectious diseases have had a major impact on the health and combat readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Recognizing this, the US Army Surgeon General created the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in 1893. For more than 120 years, WRAIR has been the primary leader in biomedical research on diseases that impact the military such as malaria and dengue fever. In fact, the medicine found in most anti-malarial pills today was developed at WRAIR to protect soldiers deployed to regions where the disease is endemic. 

At the peak of the US HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, HIV was identified and listed among the infectious diseases that pose a threat to our armed forces. Congress initiated the creation of the US Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) to develop effective preventive measures against HIV for the US and its Allied Forces. 

Today, with more than 35 million infections worldwide, HIV continues to pose a significant and persistent threat to force protection and military readiness. What’s more, the disease undermines and affects the stability and security of many nation-states.

MHRP is dedicated to bringing about an AIDS-free future through cutting-edge research aimed at developing an HIV vaccine and discovering a cure. Below are highlights of our milestones and achievements. 

2017 — Began a new multi-site Phase 2 Ebola vaccine study at MHRP sites in Africa evaluating a prime-boost regimen in both healthy and HIV-infected volunteers (Ad26.ZEBOV from J&J; MVA-BN-Filo from Bavarian Nordic)

2016 — Support Army development of Zika Purified Inactivated Virus (ZPIV) vaccine, which has shown efficacy in two rounds of preclinical testing and entered Phase 1 human testing in October 2016.

2016  –  New HIV vaccine efficacy study (HVTN702) begins in South Africa that builds on RV144 – ​ MHRP researchers are part of a team that initiated new trials to build on the success of RV144 

2016 — Began first-in-human Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine study at WRAIR using GLS-5300 vaccine, co-developed by Inovio Pharmaceuticals and GeneOne Life Science Inc.

2015 — Began a new Ebola vaccine study in Abuja, Nigeria, using a monovalent chimpanzee adenovirus Type 3 (ChAd3) candidate developed at the NIAID and being developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the study sponsor.

2015 — Began a new HIV vaccine study (A004) in Uganda and Thailand. A004 is a phase II study of an HIV candidate vaccine Ad26 prime with MVA and protein boost funded and sponsored by Janssen, a division of J&J.

2015 —Began a Phase 1b clinical trial of two experimental Ebola vaccines in Kampala, Uganda, using Chimpanzee Adenovirus type 3 vector (ChAd3) vaccines, co-developed by the VRC, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoSmithKine. 

2015 –  Publish results on longest long-term follow up study with Ebola survivors  – Researchers conducted a study and published paper on adverse health events following Ebola virus disease in Bundibugyo, Uganda, representing the most comprehensive long-term outcome study to date.

2014Reported results of first Ebola vaccine clinical trial in Africa – Findings published in the Lancet show that the vaccine candidate produces the same immune response seen in the United States in an African setting. The vaccine candidate was a precursor to candidates currently under development. 

2014Identified the primary HIV infection attribution category in the Army – For the first time since repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which defines a very specific population most at risk for HIV that can now be provided with targeted preventive intervention activities.

2014Conducted medical economic analysis of a MHRP Hepatitis C infection (HCV) –​ A seroprevalence study of more than 17,000 recently deployed US military personnel which demonstrated that HCV screening of all applicants for military service will result in a net cost savings to the DoD in treatment cost avoided.

2012Identified Correlates of Risk – MHRP researchers analyzed RV144 blood samples to determine the roles of T-cell, igG antibody and IgA antibody responses in the modulation of HIV infection risk. The findings were published In the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and concluded that vaccines designed to induce higher levels of V1V2 antibodies and lower Env-specifc IgA antibodies could result in improved efficacy against HIV-1 infection. 

2012MHRP Researchers awarded $5 million grant to fund research into a novel heroin/HIV vaccine – The innovative dual-vaccine model would concurrently address the entwined epidemics of heron abuse and HIV and could provide considerable public health benefits. 

2012Novel Ad26MVA vaccine provides protection against SIV  –  Results found Ad26/MVA vaccine combinations can provide partial protection against infection by Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) in rhesus monkeys. In addition, in the animals that became infected, the optimal vaccine combinations also substantially reduced the amount of virus in the blood. Results from the studies were published in the journal Nature. 

2011Collaborators in Kenya investigate impact of initiating ART for patients co-infected with HIV and Tuberculosis – Researchers concluded that while earlier ART did not reduce the rate of new AIDS-defining illness and death, it was associated with a lower rate of new AIDS-defining illnesses and death. The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

2009Developed an MVA HIV Vaccine Candidate  –  MHRP and NIAID researchers developed a new HIV vaccine, specific to the strain of HIV circulating in Southeast Asia that is expressed in a modified smallpox virus vector (MVA). Preliminary test of this vaccine component have elicited a robust immune response to the vaccine.

2009Published Results of RV144 trial in the New England Journal of Medicine – The Army-sponsored RV144 trial demonstrated that the “prime- boost”combination vaccine lowered the rate of HIV infection by 31.2 percent compared to a placebo. It is the only HIV vaccine to show modest efficacy in preventing infections. Learn More 

2008Helped Ensure A Safe Blood Supply for the Warfighter – Commonly referred to as “the walking blood supply,” servicemen are trained to transfuse blood to wounded soldiers on the battlefield. This makes access to safe and disease-free blood in wartime arenas essential.  In 2008, MHRP evaluated available rapid test kits for HIV, HBV, and HCV and made recommendations for the best products to use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The work provided the basis for the FDA’s recommendation to pre-screen the walking blood bank, greatly improving the safety of transfusions for wounded soldiers.

1997Led the development of HIV vaccines for global deployment – In 1997, MHRP launched the first non-subtype B vaccine study in Thailand. Vaccine studies continue today in Thailand and East Africa.

1995Early characterization of HIV subtypes – Early in the HIV epidemic, US Army researchers helped characterize nearly half of the knownsubtypes of the virus. They tracked the heterosexual HIV epidemic in Thailand, isolating and characterizing the Thai strain of the virus and tracking the changing molecular epidemiology of HIV-1. This led to the discovery of CRF01_AE/B recombinant strains of the virus and the start of the RV144 “Thai Study.” 

1988Invented Transcutaneous Immunization (TCI) – A revolutionary form of vaccination, Transcutaneous Immunization administers a topical adjuvanted vaccine through a skin patch. The technology is now used in commercial products.  

 

1986Developed the Initial HIV Disease Classification & Staging System – In 1986, the US Army adopted a staging classification for HTLV-III infection called "The Walter Reed (WR) Staging Classification System." The first of its kind, the WR Staging System provided uniformity for routine clinical evaluation of military personnel with HTLV-III infection. 

1986Identified Heterosexual Transmission of HIV-1 – In 1986, MHRP published evidence of the then-controversial notion that HIV could be transmitted heterosexually.