New HIV Vaccine Candidate to Begin Human Trials

 

It has been a long road in the battle against HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began in the early 1980s. However, in 2013, the virus hit what was widely referred to as a tipping point when, for the first time, more people were newly being treated with antiretroviral drugs than became newly infected with HIV. Despite this milestone, there are still 35 million people estimated to be living with HIV today — 19 million who are estimated to be unaware of their HIV-positive status — and 2 million more people are being infected each year.

 

Recently, the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine announced that for the first time, it will begin testing its HIV vaccine candidate in humans.

 

The vaccine has previously been tested on primates, and it is the cumulation of nearly twenty years of research.


While not the only HIV vaccine candidate to begin human trials, the research team for this vaccine is being led by Dr. Robert Gallo, who was one of the first doctors to search for the virus causing AIDS, and is well known for his and the Pasteur Institute’s co-discovery that HIV is the cause of AIDS.*


Dr. Gallo
says the institute has been home to the research and development of the vaccine as it went from “a concept on paper, to the test tube, to tissue culture, to small animal, to large animal, to man.”

The vaccine will begin Phase I testing, per the FDA’s lengthy approval process. Dr. Gallo is careful not to claim the vaccine is a “cure-all,” nor does he guarantee its success. However, he does believe it will lead to advances in the field.

 

*There has been much controversy surrounding who originally discovered the virus that causes AIDS. While in 1987 the U.S. president and French prime minister agreed credit should be shared, evidence suggests that Dr. Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Dr. Luc Montagnier from the Pasteur Institute in France were in fact the first to identify the HIV virus. In 2008, a Nobel committee agreed and awarded both French doctors the Nobel prize in medicine for discovering HIV.

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Michelle L Staton

Moving from DC to NYC, Michelle's background is in policy at the U.S. Senate and in African affairs — from working on West African democracy strengthening programs to East African peace initiatives beginning in 2006. Now an iOS developer, her focus is on ways to utilize tech for global good. You can find her at any given Chipotle in NYC, or you can follow her on Twitter @MichelleLStaton