June 20, 2003
The trials will be conducted in conjunction with the United States where the "alpha-virus replicon vector" technology, the basis for these trials, was developed. The technology involves using parts of another virus, in this case the South American horse virus (VEE), to deliver the vaccine to the body's immune cells. The VEE has been altered so that even though technically it infects the trial volunteers, it cannot do them any harm, said principle trial investigator Glenda Gray.
Some 96 HIV-negative volunteers will be injected with the vaccine containing VEE, tucked inside of which is a small section of genetic material from HIV. It does not include the genetic elements needed to reconstitute live HIV -- just enough, it is hoped, to prime the immune system so that it recognizes and attacks the virus should it enter the body. "There is no possibility of the vaccine itself causing HIV infection," Gray said.
U.S. trials are scheduled to start next month. If the initial safety data are satisfactory, the South African trials will start in August and will take about two years. If the vaccine is successful, it could be on the shelves within the next 10 years.
Agence France Presse