University of Colorado Among Research Centers to Test New Version of HIV Vaccine
The University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center is one of six U.S. research centers scheduled to test a new version of an HIV vaccine this spring, the Denver Post reports. The vaccine, which is made up of small, non-lethal pieces of HIV's genetic code, is called the "HIV gag vaccine," with "gag" referring to the virus' small genetic sequences. Researchers will place a small piece of HIV DNA into a molecule, which will then be injected into a human participant, causing the person's body to produce proteins that prompt the immune system to respond to the virus. Trial participants will be injected with the gag vaccine three times and then once with another vaccine that contains the same piece of DNA in a different molecule. Volunteers will then be monitored by researchers for immune response, which could begin to appear in the first six to eight months. Researchers will track participants for "years" after the studies to observe the results of the vaccine.
Not a Deadly Vaccine
Since only a small piece, rather than the entire strand, of HIV DNA is injected, "there is no danger of anyone getting infected," according to Robert Schooley, University of Colorado's chief of infectious disease and head of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group. Schooley said that he is encouraged by studies showing that the vaccine had "a fairly impressive effect on virus replication" in primates (Schrader, Denver Post, 2/2). The Colorado tests will consist of two studies. The first, beginning in March, will involve about 130 uninfected, "low-risk" volunteers. The second study, which could begin in April or May, will include about 85 HIV-positive individuals with "relatively intact" immune systems (Associated Press, 2/2). The Colorado Multiple Institutional Review Board reviewed the proposal for the first study and returned it "with some reasonable questions," Schooley said. The second study has not yet been reviewed. Other research centers scheduled to conduct HIV vaccine trials include the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Maryland and Harvard University (Denver Post, 2/2).