AIDS vaccine begins human trials

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By Ryan Collett

A team of medical researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada has furthered extensive testing on a vaccine for the HIV virus. Lead researcher Dr. Chil-Yong Kang and his team are pursuing traditional methods in what will hopefully be a step to preventing one of the most volatile viruses.

The vaccine created by Kang and his team is called SAV001 and owned by Sumagen, a South Korean drug company. The vaccine is unique from other medical teams seeking a cure for the disease in that it is created by a dead strain of the virus itself. Like cures for polio, hepatitis, and rabies, the vaccine is actually an altered form of the HIV virus. The vaccine – which then creates anti-bodies against the virus — is injected into the patient before they actually come in contact with HIV.

SAV001 is created through radiation and chemical therapy, killing its aggressive, transformative nature, but retaining its ability to activate the body’s immune system against it. The body forms anti-bodies specifically designed to safeguard itself against the real HIV virus — a strategy that traditional vaccines employ for diseases as simple as the flu.

The testing for SAV001 has required intensive security in its preliminary trials because test subjects are essentially injected with the HIV virus. After passing numerous toxicology tests involving rats and monkeys, the Sumagen team has moved on to human subjects.

Last year, the vaccine finally received approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration, opening up the doors not only for American medical involvement, but also more funding, awareness and, maybe most importantly, credibility. The FDA has one of the most extensive regiments of requirements in regards for drug approval.

With major funding provided by grants from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Kang and his team have entered into intimate clinical testing of the vaccine.

The vaccine’s trial has been divided into three important stages. Stage one of testing involves further toxicology testing. In stage two, the team will use 600 HIV-negative volunteers and inject them with the vaccine, and in stage three, 6,000 volunteers will be used with half of them being administered a placebo.

While Sumagen will be testing SAV001 for at least five years, its advancement into clinical testing comes as welcome news to the 34 million people around the world living with HIV.

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