A new venture initially focused on developing candidate AIDS vaccineson-site at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was launched today withthe unveiling and dedication of the granite cornerstone of NIH's new vaccineresearch center. The cornerstone is dedicated to immunization advocatesDale Bumpers, the former senator from Arkansas, and his wife Betty. By anact of Congress, the building has been named the Dale and Betty BumpersVaccine Research Center.
Two years ago in his commencement address at Morgan State University inBaltimore, President Clinton asked the nation to commit to developing a vaccine against AIDS within the next 10 years. He also announced plans toestablish the new vaccine research center on the NIH campus. Today, thePresident joined HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala, NIH Director Harold E.Varmus., M.D., and members of Congress in an official ceremony dedicatingthe building to house the new center.
"No two American citizens have done more than Dale and Betty Bumpers topromote the importance of immunization as the key to public health,"Secretary Shalala said. "It is extremely fitting that a center devoted tofinding new vaccines against AIDS and other diseases be dedicated to them.""We are delighted to cast in stone a legacy to the Bumpers' sustainedefforts to promote vaccination and vaccine research," commented Dr. Varmus."Early on, they recognized that the power of vaccines as a tool forimproving public health has no equal."
The VRC building, now under construction, will house under one NIH roof thelargest number of researchers dedicated to making vaccines. Their initialgoal, pairing a formidable research challenge and urgent global healthproblem, will be to develop candidate vaccines against HIV. In 1998,approximately 16,000 new HIV infections occurred worldwide each day. Morethan 95 percent of these new infections occurred in developing countries.
The building has been designed to encompass the entire spectrum of vaccineresearch, from basic research up through product development, and willinclude facilities to produce small lots of experimental vaccines suitablefor clinical trials. Construction of the five-story building is scheduledto be completed by middle of next year.
At full capacity, the VRC will employ about 100 scientists and support staffled by Director Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Nabel has been an innovator inresearch on gene therapy for AIDS. More recently, he has led efforts todevelop novel vaccine strategies against cancer and the Ebola virus.Through a network of national and international collaborations, he plans forVRC staff to work synergistically with other vaccine research groups at NIHand in academia and industry.
A unique venture within the NIH intramural research program, the VRCreceives joint funding from the National Institute of Allergy and InfectiousDiseases (NIAID) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and is spearheadedby NIAID, NCI and the NIH Office of AIDS Research. The fiscal year 1999budget for the VRC is $16.5 million.
The Clinton/Gore Administration has responded aggressively to thesignificant threat posed by HIV/AIDS with increased attention to research,prevention and treatment. NIH funding for AIDS vaccine research hasincreased 100 percent since FY1995.
NIH has a long and fruitful history of vaccine research. New or improvedvaccines against Rocky Mountain spotted fever, typhus fever and yellow fevercount among the earliest successful vaccines developed by intramural NIHscientists. More recent contributions include vaccines against adenovirus,used to protect military recruits against serious respiratory illness; avaccine against Haemophilus influenzae type b, formerly the leading cause ofbacterial meningitis; an acellular pertussis vaccine for whooping cough; ahepatitis A vaccine; and last year's triumph, a vaccine against severerotavirus diarrhea.
A Long-Standing Commitment to Immunization
Senator Dale Bumpers is best known for his long and distinguished career inpublic service in the U.S. Senate and his home state of Arkansas. Prior tobecoming a U.S. Senator, Senator Bumpers was elected Governor in 1970 andserved two terms. During his first term as Governor, his wife Betty firstsparked his interest in the cause of childhood vaccination.
Bumpers was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974. Throughout his 24-yearcareer in Congress, he was the acknowledged leader on immunization issues.As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he worked hard toincrease funding for efforts to improve and purchase vaccines for childhooddiseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough and polio, and to develop newvaccines against diseases like bacterial meningitis.
During the 1980s, his crusade on behalf of cost-effective immunizationprograms often resulted in Congress approving amounts above theAdministration's requests. During the measles epidemic of 1989-1991, herallied his colleagues by calling the 27,000 cases of measles in 1990 "bothshameful and totally avoidable," and noting that there had been more deathsfrom measles in one year than there were combat deaths in the Persian Gulf.He was among the first immunization advocates to recognize the importance ofrequiring proof of immunization at school entry; reaching children throughother programs such as cash assistance and the Women, Infants and Childrenfeeding program; and focusing on children under two.
Throughout his Senate career, Senator Bumpers was also a champion of theNational Institutes of Health, and an advocate of funds to fight HIV/AIDS.His support for appropriations for NIH helped answer fundamental questionsabout HIV/AIDS, and also supported research and development activities onvaccines generally.
Betty Bumpers has also dedicated her life to issues affecting children'shealth. When she became the First Lady of Arkansas, the state had one ofthe lowest immunization rates in the nation. Mrs. Bumpers spearheaded asystem for childhood vaccinations that became a national model, and thestate achieved one of the highest immunization rates in the country.
After her husband's election to the Senate, Betty Bumpers continued to workon immunization issues with the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand the wives of other state governors, including Rosalynn Carter ofGeorgia. Upon Jimmy Carter's election as president, Mrs. Bumpers contactedthe new administration, explained the deficits in the country's immunizationprogram, and urged that something be done to improve the situation. Heradvocacy, and that of Rosalynn Carter, led to the federal government's firstcomprehensive childhood immunization initiative, which was launched in 1977and was based on the successful state program adopted in Arkansas whenBumpers was governor. The efforts of Mrs. Bumpers and Mrs. Carter also ledto laws, now in every state, requiring certain vaccinations before entryinto school. As a result of these laws, more than 95 percent of Americanchildren are immunized by the time they go to school, and once-commondiseases are now rare.
In 1991, Mrs. Bumpers and Rosalynn Carter started a campaign called "EveryChild by Two." For the past eight years, the organization has worked toensure that all children in America are immunized on schedule from birth toage 2, and that immunization delivery is institutionalized nationwide. Inrecent years, Betty Bumpers also has worked on the global campaign toeradicate polio.
Increasing the number of children immunized was one of the earliestpriorities of the Clinton/Gore Administration. The President's initiativeaddressed five key areas: improving the quality and quantity ofimmunization services; reducing vaccine costs for parents; increasingcommunity participation, education and partnerships; improving systems formonitoring diseases and vaccinations; and improving vaccines and vaccineuse.
Overall, funding for childhood immunization has more than doubled since FY1993. And in July 1997, President Clinton and Secretary Shalala announcedthat the Administration's Childhood Immunization Initiative had met itsfirst goal: having 90 percent of America's children receiving the most critical doses of vaccines by age two.
TV Producers and Reporters: A video B-roll, including sound bites ofPresident Clinton's Morgan State University address, is available. For moreinformation, call the NIAID Office of Communications at (301) 402-1663.
Note: The ceremony will be broadcast live on the NIH Web site athttp://videocast.nih.gov.