The HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) has launched an
international clinical trial which will test a "promising" HIV prevention vaccine
candidate for humans.
The vaccine, called EP HIV-1090, would be tested on 42 volunteers
in the United States and Botswana, HVTN said on Thursday.
"This trial marks a new stage in global HIV research," said HVTN
principal investigator Dr Larry Corey.
"Africa is carrying the greatest burden of the Aids epidemic, and
it is therefore crucial that HIV vaccine development include African
leadership, participation and support."
It said in a statement from Gaborone, Botswana, that previous
human trials conducted by HVTN outside the US, had always followed a trial in
This time, participants would receive the same inoculations at
the same time in the Boston, Massachusetts area, in St Louis, Missouri, and in
"This study is a significant and hopeful step in Botswana's
battle against the scourge of Aids," said Botswana's health minister Joy Phumaphi.
"The volunteers for this trial exemplify the best of the
traditional Botswana values of altruism and selflessness."
HVTN said the vaccine candidate was a multi-epitope vaccine
developed by Epimmune, a San Diego-based pharmaceutical company.
EP HIV-1090 was assembled from synthetically-produced DNA which
manufactured specific proteins such as those in HIV. These proteins had
elements referred to as epitopes, which in this case prepared the body to recognise
real HIV, it said.
The network said there was no way that any part of the vaccine
candidate could cause HIV infection. No live HIV virus was used in making the
vaccine, so there was no possible way for EP HIV-1090 to cause HIV infection in any
As the body learnt to defend itself against the vaccine, the hope
was that it would also learn to fight off real HIV, should the body ever be
exposed to the actual virus.
It said the trial was currently in Phase I. The safety and effect
of the drug on the immune system was being tested.
Of the 42 volunteers, six of them would receive a placebo.
Participants would be healthy, HIV-1-uninfected people between
the ages of 18 and 40.
The trial would last 18 months, after which time the data would
The candidate vaccine would then be considered for the next stage
of testing, HVTN said.
Initial lab studies had shown that EP HIV-1090 may have the
potential to induce an initial immune response against subtypes of HIV seen in the US
It said testing the product in both countries in the same trial
would allow for a more thorough understanding of the best way to proceed with the
"Our understanding of HIV vaccine science grows with each human
trial we undertake," said Max Essex, principal investigator of the
Botswana HIV Vaccine Trial Unit.
"Vaccine development is a complicated process, and the HIV virus
is particularly intricate. Clinical trials are crucial to building the body of
knowledge we need to achieve a working HIV vaccine."
-- HVTN is a global network of trial sites, linking scientists,
community members, governments and industry in an effort to develop an HIV
vaccine. It currently has four sites in Africa: Gaborone, Durban and Soweto
in South Africa, and Blantyre in Malawi.
Additional HVTN trials are scheduled to begin in South Africa
On the web: www.hvtn.org