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Indian HIV vaccine lead promising

The vaccine if successful, may bring down infection by five million.


20 April,2007:

One of the potential vaccine candidates against HIV currently under clinical studies in India is learnt to be showing promising results.

The candidate vaccine recombinant Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) being trailed at the National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) in Chennai has demonstrated efficacy in statistically significant sample, according to senior officials with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) who run the trials.

The vaccine targets HIV-1 subtype C, the most predominant HIV strain in India.

"The HIV vaccine if it works 30 per cent could be administered to 40 per cent of the population. It could bring down the infection by five million people,’’stated a top ICMR official recently in Bangalore, southern India.

The investigational vaccine candidate, TBC-M4, is designed as a preventive vaccine to protect people who are not infected with HIV from contracting HIV/AIDS. If the vaccine could prove effective upto 50 per cent, it could bring down the infection by about 17 million, he stated.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and biotechnology firm Therion Biologics Corporation (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) collaborated on the development of the AIDS vaccine candidate utilising MVA vector technology.

Therion, with the assistance of Dr Sekhar Chakrabarti, an Indian Scientist from the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata, designed the candidate and manufactured doses of it for initial clinical trials.

The Chennai study is a small-scale trial, with a primary aim to evaluate the safety of the product. Goals also include gathering preliminary data on the ability of the vaccine candidate to stimulate immune responses against HIV/AIDS. Researchers are pursuing multiple vaccine candidates simultaneously because it is not certain which of many possible designs may prove effective.

Prof. N. K. Ganguly, Director General, ICMR added, “The pipeline of promising vaccines is growing, yet several clinical trials will be needed worldwide to select the best candidates for further development stages. Along with India’s first AIDS vaccine trial – launched in Pune last February -- the Chennai study will play an important role in advancing the global search for viable strategies to combat HIV/AIDS”.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research. It was founded in 1911 and is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world. The Council promotes research in the country through 21 Permanent Research Centres.

The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is the nodal organisation for formulation of policy and implementation of programmes for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India. And the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organisation working to accelerate the development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection and AIDS. Founded in 1996 and operational in 23 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates.

ICMR director general Dr NK Ganguly said, that the modified vaccina ankara (MVA) vaccine, which has been tested at NIE, Chennai, has indicated potential promise. ICMR is gearing up to start a combined vaccine trials with two vaccines Adeno Associated Virus (AAV) and MVA and take it to phase I.





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