Late Breaking News
Army-led Research on HIV Vaccine Could Lead to Success in a Decade
Research into development of a vaccine for the HIV virus has moved so quickly in the last two years, military researchers predict that a vaccine could be available within the next decade.
Not too long ago, researchers were not nearly so optimistic. In fact, “discouraged” would be a better word for the mood of the research world – that is before publication of the results of the U.S. Army-led Thai Phase III HIV vaccine clinical trial, also known as RV144. The research, whose results were presented at the AIDS Vaccine 2009 Conference in Paris and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine, reported the first-ever vaccine regimen to show efficacy, and more importantly, came on the heels of a series of research disappointments.
(The U.S. Military HIV Research Program [MHRP] provided overall project leadership, and the U.S. Army Medical Component – Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences helped execute the trial in Thailand on behalf of the sponsor, the U.S. Army Surgeon General.)
“The best way to look at it is in context of where we were in 2009,” says Col. Jerome Kim, MD, MC, U.S. Army, Deputy Director (Science) of the MHRP and the Project Manager for HIV Vaccines for Medical Research and Materiel Command. At that point, he notes, there had been two HIV vaccine efficacy trials in recent years that had produced disappointing results and/or had to be stopped, due to lack of efficacy.
“The field was wondering aloud if it was even possible to protect against infection,” Kim recounts.
The trial of Aventis Pasteur Live Recombinant ALVAC-HIV® (vCP1521) priming with VaxGen gp120 B/E (AIDSVAX® B/E) boosting in uninfected Thai adults showed 31% efficacy at 42 months. “But at one year, it was 60%, which means the effect probably wore off over time,” notes Col. Nelson Michael, MD, PhD, MC, U.S. Army, MHRP Director. That means, according to Michael, that you could potentially provide a vaccine tailored to the one in Thailand and give boosters every year.
That approach could prove enormously expensive. “What we’d like to have is a universal vaccine – worldwide for all variants, men and women.” That’s something, he says, that the Army – as well as the rest of the HIV research field – is working very hard to create.
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