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India launches human trials of HIV vaccine

India launches human trials of HIV vaccine

Indian scientists on Monday began the country's first human clinical trials of a vaccine designed to prevent HIV infection. The vaccine trials are part of an international partnership among the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and U.S.-based Targeted Genetics, Indian health minister Anbumani Ramadoss told reporters in the western city of Pune. "Doctors in Pune have today inoculated the first group of volunteers with the potential vaccine," Ramadoss said moments after the first subject was injected. The testing involves 30 male and female volunteers between 18 and 45 years of age who are HIV-negative and free of other major illnesses, doctors involved in the trials said. During the trials, which are expected to take about 15 months, the vaccine will be given to the volunteers to induce a response from their immune systems that may protect them against HIV infection, said N.K. Ganguly, director of the ICMR. "The volunteers have been made aware of the risks involved; they have been counseled and their health status will be monitored all the time," Ganguly said. Seth Berkley of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, speaking in a video conference call from New York, said the trials were part of a global drive to end the HIV epidemic; about 40 million people worldwide are currently infected with the virus. New York-based IAVI has conducted early clinical trials of the vaccine at university clinics in Bonn and Hamburg, Germany, and also at Belgian hospitals in Brussels and Antwerp, Berkley said. Known as tgAAC09, the vaccine targets HIV subtype C--prevalent in South Africa, India, and China and responsible for a large part of the world's HIV infections. The vaccine was developed by Seattle-based Targeted Genetics and the Columbus Children's Research Institute. India was "essential" to the global vaccine effort because of its advanced biomedical research facilities, and its strong pharmaceutical industry would be able to deliver a cheap and effective vaccine to the millions infected with HIV, Berkley said. India has more than 5 million HIV-positive people, the world's second-highest number of infections after South Africa. Almost a quarter of them are children and young people under the age of 25. (AP)

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