Promising New Research Puts Focus on AIDS Vaccines

By Portyansky, Elena | Drug Topics, July 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Promising New Research Puts Focus on AIDS Vaccines


Portyansky, Elena, Drug Topics


IDS vaccines were among some of the most promising new developments highlighted at an International Biotechnology Conference and Exhibition held recently in New York City. With the recent surge of reports on various attempts to immunize organisms against today's most feared virus, prevention appears to be the direction that AIDS research has taken lately.

Should health-care professionals be optimistic about an HIV vaccine? "We think we should," declared Jack Killen, M.D., director, division of AIDS, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

More than 20 potential vaccines have been tested around the world. And "that's surely a step in the right direction," affirmed AIDS specialist Joel Zive, R.Ph., FACA, Zive Pharmacy & Surgical Inc., Bronx, N.Y.

Cel-Sci's HGP-30W, a vaccine directed toward the most common HIV subtypes found worldwide, is among the candidates. The investigational product, currently undergoing phase II studies in Europe, has been shown to generate immune responses to peptides representing analogous regions of HIV subtypes A, B, C, and E in animals and humans. The company claims that while some other investigational vaccines focus on only the B subtype of the virus (most commonly found in the United States and Western Europe), its broad-spectrum vaccine targets common subtypes found in the developing world.

Large-scale human testing of VaxGen Inc.'s AIDSvax, another potential vaccine under development, is about to begin. The three-year trial, which will evaluate the injection in 5,000 HIV-negative volunteers, is open to individuals considered at high risk of contracting HIV. This particular vaccine utilizes copies of the outer coating of HIV in an attempt to stimulate the immune system to fight off viral subtypes found in the United States as well as others that are predominant in Southeast Asia. So far, results of smaller studies have shown that over 99% of subjects vaccinated with AlDSvax produced strong levels of antibodies.

Research activity in this area certainly doesn't seem to be lackingand neither is support. Killen revealed that the NIH has made the development of an AIDS vaccine its highest priority. The agency is creating a program devoted to "vigorous basic research which is still needed to sort out the questions and provide a knowledge base" for successful development of immunization against the insidious virus.

Apparently more than a couple of crucial pieces are still missing to the puzzle. …

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