Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First HIV Vaccine Ready for Human Testing

An HIV/AIDS vaccine developed in Canada has passed safety tests in animals and the researchers are awaiting approval to begin human trials in the U.S., reports the CBC.

"It is a very important milestone for us," said Yong Kang, a professor of microbiology at the University of Western Ontario in London who has been working on the vaccine for 20 years.

Kang said he expects to get the go-ahead soon from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin human toxicology tests and two phases of clinical trials in the United States.

If all three trials are successful, the vaccine should be available within the next decade, Kang told CBC News on the phone while attending a meeting in South Korea.

According to a 2008 United Nations report on the global AIDS epidemic, 33 million people were living with HIV in 2007. Two million people died of causes related to the disease that year.

Dozens of HIV vaccines have already been developed and tested in animal models, but few have been tested in humans, none successfully. A promising trial in 2007 by pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co. was shut down after those receiving the vaccine contracted HIV at a higher rate than those who received the placebo.

Kang has partnered with a Curacom, a South Korean holding company, that has agreed to open an office in London, Ont., to help fund research in Kang's lab and commercialize the vaccine.

A test vaccine is being manufactured in a lab in Maryland near Washington, D.C.

Lab tests showed the vaccine produced no adverse effects or safety risks during immunology tests on animals.

The toxicology tests are expected to include 40 to 50 HIV-positive volunteers in the U.S., and will be designed to test whether the vaccine is toxic in humans.


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