Canadian Researchers Close in on Workable HIV Vaccine

21/12/2011 – Researchers from the University of Western Ontario and private industry have received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials for a new HIV vaccine.
In January, with recent approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, Canadian researchers will be able to begin clinical trials for a newly-developed vaccine that may safely prevent HIV.
 
The innovative vaccine, called SAVOO1, is the first to begin clinical trials using a dead version of the virus (three previous clinical trials have used a live version). Like vaccines developed for polio and influenza, Western’s HIV vaccine uses a dead version of the virus genetically engineered to not cause infection (i.e. “non-pathogenic”). Facilities in Maryland and Colorado funded by Korean-based firm Sumagen will produce the vaccine. Sumagen has funded $50 million of Dr. Kang’s research, Metro news reports.
 
The vaccine is also noted to be the only HIV vaccine in development here in Canada.
 
University of Western Ontario virologist, Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, will lead the team in Phase 1 of the clinic trials. Phase 1 will test the vaccine’s safety on 40 HIV-positive patients.
 
Phase 1 tests should take six months to complete, while evaluations of the tests are expected to take one year. Phase 2, which will involve 600 HIV-negative  (but high-risk) participants, will measure the immune response. Those considered to be high risk include hemophiliacs, injection drug users, sex trade workers and persons of the gay community with multiple sexual partners.
 
Phase 3 will involve 6,000 people also considered to be high risk. By comparing vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons, this phase will test how effective the vaccine truly is. Phase 3 will allow the researchers to determine whether or not the vaccine is effective in preventing HIV infection.
 
But for right now, the vaccine may have the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world by preventing HIV infection, said Dr. Kang, who is both a researcher and professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.
 
“This is the first time that I feel very happy and comfortable to initiate this human clinical trial,” he said in the CBC.
 
Every day, 7,000 people become infected with HIV and 5,000 people lose their lives to AIDS. As of 2009, 33.3 million people were thought to be living with HIV—2.5 million of whom were children under the age of 15. The disease has orphaned 16.6 million children, the overwhelming majority of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. Along with poverty, HIV/AIDS is at the root of the continent’s orphan crisis.
 
While access to treatment and the prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission of the disease has increased since the first discovery of the virus, HIV/AIDS continues to take a toll on the health, educational and economic achievement of pandemic-struck developing countries.
 
A safe and effective vaccine to protect against HIV would be a watershed in the global fight against AIDS. It would mean that millions of children would not have to suffer the hardship of navigating their childhoods without the support and protection of their parents.