An 18-month Phase I clinical trial of an experimental HIV vaccine that aims to prevent infection with the virus is set to begin this month in New York City and Rochester, N.Y. The vaccine, called ADMVA, was developed by scientists at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and uses a modified version of the smallpox vaccine to stimulate immune system responses to prevent viral infections. Trial organizers, including Aaron Diamond and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, are seeking 48 HIV-negative volunteers, ages 18-40, for the safety study. The vaccine focuses on the C strain of the virus, which is prevalent in China, India, and sub-Saharan African and accounts for more than half of all HIV infections worldwide. If Phase I trial data are encouraging, additional studies are planned.
"With each passing year, the grip of the disease tightens worldwide as the disease makes new inroads into heavily populated regions in Asia," said David Ho, director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and Time magazine's 1996 Man of the Year for his work in HIV treatment. "Developing an effective AIDS vaccine is one of the greatest challenges researchers and volunteers have ever faced. But the rewards in terms of lives that could be saved by an effective vaccine are also among the greatest in human history."