BARCELONA: It's been more than 30 years since the start of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic that has claimed "an estimated 36 million deaths" and Blacks across the African Diaspora have been disproportionately impacted. There is finally some very promising news in HIV vaccine research.
A possible “breakthrough” was presented publicly for the first time at the 13th AIDS Vaccine Conference, which was held in Barcelona, Spain from October 7 to 10. Louis J. Picker, M.D. associate director of the Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, presented research that demonstrated vaccinated monkeys can clear simian immunodeficiency virus—the monkey equivalent of HIV—from their bodies.
The vaccine was effective in nine of the 16 monkeys in the study. Picker originally published his research last month in the journal Nature. “This is the first proof of concept that an AIDS-causing virus can be eliminated by an immune response,” Picker said. The vaccine used cytomegalovirus as a platform. CMV is already found in most humans and belongs to the herpes virus family.
Picker is confident the vaccine could work in humans. "The stars are aligned and we feel we have a very good shot. [It] also seems to work for tuberculosis and we need a larger study to prove this.” Picker estimates it could take “at least two years” to secure funding and regulatory approval for Phase I clinical trials in humans.
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AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona has been described as the "world's leading scientific meeting on HIV vaccine research" and was attended by more than 1,000 leading researchers, funders and policy makers.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona and my international media fellowship was sponsored the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise—the international consortium that has pooled resources to "speed the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine." The Enterprise includes the USA, Thailand and South African governments, the European Union, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNAIDS, World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, GlaxoSmithKline, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Merck, Novartis, USAID, Sanofi Pasteur, the largest company in the world devoted to vaccine development.