BY Neal Broverman

December 09 2009 8:35 PM ET

Would the next model system be human?
It will likely be another mammalian system to establish further efficacy — to see if this really works robustly in a living breathing system.

So human testing is a way off?
Yes, because FDA requirements for a Phase I clinical trial requires a pretty good amount of preclinical development, and we’re currently in that preclinical stage.

When will the next in vivo testing will happen?
It’s in development right now.

If this vaccine does prove successful in future test subjects, could this be offered as a preventive vaccine, or would you have to be HIV-positive for it to work?
It’s actually a reverse vaccine. A vaccine is where you give a person something and their immune response generates immunity to whatever they were given. This [advancement] engineers the immune cells in the individual to be targeted toward a specific thing like HIV. It wouldn’t necessarily require HIV infection at the time of treatment — high-risk people, for instance, could be provided this [as treatment] — but we think it would be more efficacious in trying to eliminate the virus from the bodies of HIV-infected people.

If it was given to someone before they had the disease, would they have the necessary cells to battle the virus should they be exposed to it?

We really don’t know at this point, but theoretically that’s possible.

What kinds of stem cells were used in the research?
We used either fetal tissue–derived or core blood–derived stem cells. They’re virtually identical to adult blood stem cells. We are postulating additional research to look into the feasibility of using embryonic-derived stem cells to engineer this approach but that’s currently ongoing.

Tags: Health