‘Joint Ownership’ Patent Agreement Reached for African HIV Vaccine
The University of Nairobi, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and Great Britain's Medical Research Council signed a three-year agreement last week giving all three "joint ownership" over the patent of an HIV/AIDS vaccine "specifically designed for an African strain of the disease," the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The agreement removes "one of the hurdles" to testing the vaccine, as Kenyan trials started "several months later than expected, partly because of wrangling over ownership and patent rights." The three organizations began work on a "double vaccine" in 1998, "basing much of their research" on Nairobi prostitutes who "appear to be immune" to HIV. One part of the "simple DNA vaccine ... delivers the genetic information on HIV," while the second, "known as MVA, is a vaccine that delivers the same genetic information but uses a weakened smallpox virus to carry it to the cells."
According to Gilbert Carnathan, project manager at IAVI, which is funding the research, the DNA vaccine is in its first phase of human testing in both Kenyans and Britons. He said that tests of the MVA vaccine are now underway in England and will begin in Kenya in September or October, adding that trials combining the components are expected to begin later this year in Britain and in Kenya early next year. "[S]afety tests" will be conducted on the vaccines to determine if they have any toxic effects. As soon as the combined vaccine "has proven safe," it will be used to see "if it actually wards off AIDS." Seth Berkley, president of the vaccine initiative, said that tests so far have "not only been safe, but also generated surprisingly good immune results." Carnathan said that Berkley will sign an agreement tomorrow with the Uganda Vaccine Research Institute to allow for testing of an oral version of the double vaccine there (England, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/24).