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U.S. Company Raises Hopes for AIDS Vaccine

Yahoo, Mon Jul 8


By Patricia Reaney

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) - A preventive vaccine against HIV ( news - web sites)/AIDS ( news - web sites) could be available by 2005 if results from human safety and efficacy trials are as good as expected, a U.S. biotechnology company said Monday.

Early results from Phase III trials of a preventive AIDS vaccine will not be available until early next year but its California-based developer VaxGen Inc said it was optimistic it would work.

"I think we will get protection (from the virus) but I don't know what level we will get," Donald Francis, president and co-founder of the company, told an AIDS conference.

Francis admitted he did not have any early clues about the results but he said the vaccine uses a standard approach and it worked in chimpanzees, so he believes it will be effective in humans.

"We expect to see in humans what we have seen in animal studies," he said. "If all goes well it could be available by end or 2004 or early 2005."

Hopes for AIDS vaccines have been dashed in the past and the charity ActionAid, which welcomed the news, advised a cautionary approach. "This is potentially great news. But it is far too early to celebrate," said Omo Igogho, the head of health programs in Nigeria for ActionAID.


With 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS and infection rates rising, a preventive vaccine is considered the best hope to control the rampant epidemic.

Drugs have prolonged the lives of sufferers in the West but few in the developing world have access to them.

It is doubtful that the first preventive vaccine will be 100 percent effective against the virus, but experts believe even 30 percent protection could help to curtail the epidemic.

"Our target is 100 percent but if we get 30 percent I'll be thrilled," said Francis.

VaxGen's AIDS vaccine works by inducing the immune system to produce antibodies that attach to the gp120 protein on the surface of the virus. The theory is that by preventing the virus from attaching to the cells it will stop infection.

Francis said VaxGen was committed to tiered pricing, which would make it affordable for poor countries, and is also beefing up its manufacturing capabilities to produce it in bulk quickly.

The impact of the vaccine in protecting high-risk people from sexual transmission of HIV is being tested on 5,400 volunteers in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands.

A similar trial in Thailand, involving 2,500 injecting drug users, will determine if it can prevent blood-borne transmission. All of the volunteers, who were given the vaccine or a placebo, were free of the virus at the start of the study and counseled about safe sex.

The efficacy rate will be determined by comparing the number of infections in the placebo group with infections in people who received the vaccine.

There are five major subtypes of HIV in different areas of the world. In Thailand there is just one subtype but Africa has many so VaxGen is working on vaccines to induce antibodies against several subtypes of HIV.

Other vaccines, both preventive and therapeutic, are being discussed at the 14th International AIDS Conference in Barcelona but progress has been slow.

Pharmaceutical companies can make more money making drugs to treat disease, than vaccines to prevent them.

"We don't value prevention," said Francis.

-- (Algernon C Braithewait III @ Ptown.MA), July 08, 2002


There is a God and He is gay!

-- (Algernon @ nude.beachball), July 08, 2002.

Just another ploy by corrupt corporate execs to get their stock prices up, fill their pockets with bonuses, thend bail out with golden parachutes just before she goes under.

-- kenny boy (been there @ done. that), July 08, 2002.

Aids Soars in South Pacific

-- (Margeret Mead @ Coming of Samoa), July 08, 2002.

I want to thank the poor excuse for a human being that posted this. It lets us all know there are still people that hold juvenile views of a problem that many thought had taken a back seat in the annals of medicine. AIDS stopped being a "gay" disease a long time ago, in case Algernon did not know.

Some other facts that have come out of the AIDS conference are staggering. 39% of all adults in Botswana are HIV positive. One out of every three adults in Zimbabwe is HIV positive. In both countries over 40% of those infected are heterosexual.

Unmitigated suffering occurs to those who progress to full blown aids. I know this first hand as a good, heterosexual friend of mine died from it as I watched him wither away, fluids oozing from every pore and orifice in his body.

To make light of this disease by an offhand comment about bath houses is in the poorest taste.

-- FutureShock (gray@matter.think), July 09, 2002.

Sorry, but bathhouses taste good.

Highly promiscuous, unprotected sex, sharing dirty needles and having a mom with AIDS seems to be the main vector of tramnsmission for AIDS. How did your hetero friend contract AIDS, d0 you know? Not from a toilet seat.

In Africa, Prostitutes/heteros are a common vector. It doesn't help that condems are taboo.

If there ever is an efficacious vaccine for AIDS, I can guarrantee you that bathhouses will boom like the 70s. Don't be so PC naive.

-- (Algernon C. Braithewait III @ Ptown.MA), July 09, 2002.

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