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AIDS vaccine heads to clinical trials

Oct. 18, 2006. 08:36 AM

PAT CURRIE

SPECIAL TO THE STAR

LONDON, ONT.—The door to success in the search for an effective AIDS vaccine was pried open yesterday with the announcement that a major South Korean firm is committing $50 million to clinical tests of a vaccine developed by a research team headed by University of Western Ontario professor

The commitment of $50 million immediately by Curocom Co. Ltd. will be "absolutely critical" to gaining the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance to conduct the clinical trials needed before the new vaccine is cleared for use, said virology professor Dr. Yong Kang.

"We expect FDA approval within a year," he said, adding that Curocom is also committed to another $35 million for the final phase of three rounds of testing that will follow an initial series of toxicology tests on animals to show that the vaccine has no harmful effects.

"We expect that the initial tests will clear the way for this vaccine to be used therapeutically within three years to treat patients suffering from low-level HIV infection," Kang said.

It will not be a cure for those suffering from full-blown AIDS, he said.

Kang said he expected the full set of clinical trials, to be completed in six or seven years, will clear the vaccine for widespread use as a HIV/AIDS preventative.

"We hope it will give total immunity," he said from London.

Kang was hopeful but cautious about the vaccine's chances of success.

"We have to be careful. Because we have done the animal, the immune response studies. But that doesn't mean we can repeat exactly the same kind of results in humans," he said.

There are currently more than 30 HIV vaccines in various stages of clinical trials, according to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. It has been estimated that at least as many more have been abandoned after work that looked promising in animal studies failed to pan out in human trials.

Peter Hayes, executive director of the AIDS Committee of London, called the announcement "very good news." But, he warned, "I've been living with (HIV) for 15 years, and this is not a cure yet."

About 43 million people worldwide are HIV-positive or have AIDS.

WITH FILES FROM CANADIAN PRESS


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