May 12, 2003
India is preparing for the first trials of an AIDS vaccine, with phase I trials beginning later this year or early next year at the National AIDS Research Institute in Pune, Maharashtra. Working closely with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National AIDS Control Organization since December 2000, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative has been trying to forge collaborations with the government, nongovernmental organizations and policy makers at national and state levels to develop and evaluate AIDS vaccines in India.
The first candidate vaccine to be tested will be modified vaccinia Ankara, a live attenuated vaccine that will target HIV-1 subtype C. "This subtype is predominant in India, accounting for nearly 91 percent of cases," said Dr. Jean-Louis Excler, medical director of the initiative. Subtypes A, B, and E and a recombinant subtype AC are found in small numbers, mainly in northeastern India, added Excler. "There is, however, no really good epidemiological study of distribution of the various HIV subtypes in India," cautioned Dr. Excler.
Developed by Boston-based Therion Biologics, the vaccine will be tested on 39 HIV-negative people at low risk of infection from the Pune area in western India. "We will ensure that informed consent is followed strictly and the trials are cleared by the institutional ethics committee," said Anjali Nayyar, IAVI's country director for India. "The vaccine is very safe," added Nayyar, "and there is no possibility of volunteers getting infected through the vaccine."
British Medical Journal
05.03.03; Vol. 326: P. 952; Sanjay Kumar