LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline Plc said on Thursday it
aimed to test a novel AIDS vaccine on humans later this year,
after studies on monkeys showed it offered protection lasting
more than a year. Jean Stephenne, head of vaccine research at
the Anglo-American drugs group, told an investor meeting that
clinical trials of a prophylactic, or preventative, version of
the vaccine were on track to start in the fourth quarter.
GSK -- the world's largest producer of HIV/AIDS medicines --
also hopes to develop a therapeutic version of the vaccine,
designed to treat people already infected with the virus that
The company is not alone in testing AIDS vaccines -- around 25
vaccines are currently being tested on humans around the world.
But its high profile in AIDS treatment is likely to add weight
to its program. GSK, which has come under fire for its pricing
of AIDS drugs in Africa, on Thursday pledged to widen a scheme
to supply poor countries with treatments at discounts in excess
of 90 percent.
Stephenne said the intention was to combine the vaccine with
GSK's standard triple-combination anti-retroviral drugs.
Patients would be get the usual drug "cocktail" to reduce the
amount of virus in their body and then receive the vaccine to
keep them well.
Trials on this therapeutic use of the product are due to start
in early 2002 and results on the feasibility of the process
should be available around mid-2003.
Other companies working on AIDS vaccines include VaxGen Inc,
which is conducting advanced Phase III trials of its AIDSVAX
vaccine, as well as GSK's "big pharma" rivals Merck and Co
Inc and Aventis SA.
GSK's vaccine consists of purified proteins from the HIV virus
in a novel adjuvant, a material added to vaccine preparations
to improve the immune response.
Vaccines work by helping the body recognize and act against
invaders, by using antigens, which are the recognition part of
the equation, and adjuvants, that help boost immune system
Stephenne said the results of GSK's studies on rhesus monkies,
showing a sharp reduction in viral load and an increase in CD4
immune cells in animals given the vaccine, would shortly be
published in a scientific journal.
A vaccine is seen as the best long-term hope in stopping the
spread of HIV which the World Health Organization estimates has
infected more than 36 million people worldwide.