HIV vaccine makers ready for human testing
Published Wednesday, July 1, 2009 11:37AM EDT
An experimental HIV vaccine developed by an Ontario researcher may soon be approved for human testing in the United States.
The vaccine was developed by University of Western Ontario professor Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, who is being supported by Sumagen Canada Inc.
The makers of the vaccine -- dubbed SAV001-H -- have sought an application from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin human testing.
According to Sumagen Canada, the vaccine has already been tested on monkeys and rats without any identified adverse effects or safety risks. Since human DNA is similar to that of these animals, researchers are optimistic the vaccine will not produce serious side effects in humans.
If approved, the human testing for the vaccine will have two phases: The first will test its safety; the second will test how much of an immune response the vaccine stimulates.
Sumagen Canada, which is a subsidiary of a Korean drug research company, says it is prepared to start a clinical trial for the vaccine as soon as the FDA gives its approval.
Even if approval is granted, it will likely take years before results from the human trials can be completed.
The vaccine has already been patented in more than 70 countries around the world.
More than 6,500 new HIV infections occur daily worldwide but to date, no cure has been found for AIDS, despite years of research.
Several antiviral drugs can inhibit the disease but they work in only about 80 per cent of infected people and have to be taken for life. If the drugs are stopped, the virus begins to destroy the body's immune system.
Nor has there ever been a vaccine to prevent or treat infection with the virus that causes AIDS, HIV. The most recent clinical trials for other vaccines have been unsuccessful. In fact, one recent high-profile trial showed that a potential vaccine not only failed to prevent infection, it appeared to increase the risk of contracting the virus.
In December, Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier predicted that is "a matter of four to five years" before an HIV vaccine is developed.
Montagnier was one of two scientists to discover the HIV virus in 1983. He was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in medicine last October.
With files from The Associated Press