Los Angeles Times Examines HIV Vaccine Trial Using Merck Synthetic Gene Candidate
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined an "innovative" potential HIV/AIDS vaccine manufactured by Merck that implements synthetic genes to "rally the immune system in a new way" by "trigger[ing]" the body to produce CD4+ T cells. To date, the search for an effective vaccine has been "frustrating," as more than 30 candidates have "failed" to prevent infection, according to the Times. However, some scientists are "betting" on Merck's vaccine candidate -- called MRKAd5 HIV-1 gag/pol/nef, or trivalent -- saying that it has the potential to curb the spread of HIV. "This is the most promising approach in a long time, and the vaccine has prompted the most robust immune response that we've seen against the AIDS virus," Dr. Judith Wasserheit, director of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, said (Marsa, Los Angeles Times, 2/14). Merck and HVTN last month announced that they have begun enrolling participants worldwide in a Phase II study in collaboration with the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases of trivalent, which aims to persuade CD4+ T cells to attack HIV when it enters the cell. In order to transfer three synthetically produced HIV genes to the cells, the trivalent vaccine uses a strain of the common cold that has been modified so that it is unable to reproduce or cause people to contract a cold (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.