August 5, 2009

Canadian - made HIV vaccine close to human trial

A researcher extracts fluid from a vial at the AIDS Vaccine Design and Development Laboratory in New York City.
Photograph by: Chris Hondros/Getty Images,

It has been 20 years in the making but researchers at the University of Western Ontario say they’re confident their HIV vaccine is only months away from being approved for human trials.

Lead researcher Dr. Chil-Yong Kang said Thursday the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can come as soon as two or three months.

“We’ve been working on the HIV virus since 1987. This is a very important day for us,” Dr. Kang said while attending a conference in South Korea. “It is a very important milestone for us, this vaccine.”

The SAV001-H vaccine has already been tested on monkeys and rats with no side effects.

Dr. Kang, a London, Ont. virology professor, said human DNA is similar to that of these animals, so researchers are optimistic the same vaccine would not produce any adverse effects in humans.

The vaccine was submitted recently to the U.S. for approval because that country already has established systems in place to check out vaccines, Dr. Kang said. If approved there, he added, worldwide acceptance of the drug will quickly follow.

There are also more HIV-positive patients in the U.S. than in Canada, which will make it easier to do a human trial comparing how the vaccine attacks the virus in volunteers.

Dr. Kang, 65, admits that it will still “take years” before results from human trials can be completed.

A South Korean drug research company and its Canadian subsidiary, Sumagen Canada, have obtained patents already for the vaccine in 70 countries.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus -- or HIV -- attacks the immune system and results in a chronic illness that may lead to the disease known as AIDS.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that, on average, it takes 10 years before HIV infection progresses into AIDS.

The virus can be transmitted into the bloodstream through unprotected sex, sharing of needles and pregnancy.

It is estimated that as many as 60,000 Canadians live with the HIV virus.

AIDS was first recognized worldwide in 1983. No proven vaccine has ever been produced.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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