London’s Times Examines Test Aimed at Detecting Potential HIV/AIDS Vaccines
The London Times on Monday examined a test that aims to identity the "best potential AIDS vaccine from among other less promising products." According to the Times, early results from the test indicate that it can detect whether a vaccine candidate will stimulate an immune system response and if the response will actively fight HIV/AIDS. The test, developed by Imperial College London and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, is known as a viral inhibition assay. The Times reports that the test is being examined in a Phase I HIV/AIDS vaccine trial.
The test uses blood from HIV-negative people who have been injected with a vaccine candidate. Researchers then mix the blood samples with a live virus in a laboratory setting to determine whether the immune system response prevents HIV from replicating. Researchers hope that the test, which is one of several in development, can be used to examine vaccine candidates and select the most promising for large-scale trials. The project is being funded by a grant worth 40 million British pounds, or about $58 million, from the Department for International Development to IAVI.
Jill Gilmour, director of clinical research at IAVI, said that the method of testing mimics infection and immune response in the body and appears to be promising. "The proof of concept is there," she said, adding, "We feel it's pretty reliable. This is measuring something different to the current assays and arguably much more relevant. We believe it can be a key frontline strategy and that it is grounded in sound scientific hypothesis." IAVI President Seth Berkley said, "If we are able to tease out what looks promising and what doesn't, then we have a holy grail. At the moment you get to a point where it's a 'crapshoot' as to what you take forward and what you don't" (Lister, Times, 4/27).