Biotechnology company VaxGen has received a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to analyze data collected from its clinical trial of the experimental HIV vaccine AIDSVAX, which was reported to lower HIV infection risk by only 3.8%, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The grant will help the company try to determine why initial trial data released in February showed that while the vaccine was largely ineffective overall, it did seem to offer protection in the range of 30% to 84% for Asian-Americans and African-Americans. The grant will be used by VaxGen researchers to study strains of HIV common among certain ethnic groups in order to determine whether the experimental vaccine offers better protection against those strains than other strains more common among patients not belonging to those groups.
AIDSVAX aims to prevent HIV infection by producing an antibody response to invading HIV by using the gp120 protein from the outer shell of the virus to prime the immune system into recognizing and attacking the virus in the body. Vaccines for any disease are usually required to be a minimum of 70% effective in preventing new infections in order to receive approval for widespread use. However, the Food and Drug Administration announced late last year that it would consider approving an HIV vaccine that proved at least 30% effective in the general population.