Thursday, March 08, 2007

Very Cool

The world could have a new vaccine designed to kill the AIDS virus in as little as three to four years according to an Atlanta-based group working on the vaccine.

It is a scientific advance that could save tens of millions of lives, and it is being developed on the campus of Emory University.

The work has been going on quietly for the last 15 years. But now it appears headed for the bell lap in the race to prevent the disease.

And the Atlanta-based group may be way ahead of the rest of the world.

The GeoVax lab at Emory is smaller than many garages. And yet the small modular building may be where the battle to end the reign of one the world's biggest killers could be won with a vaccine to prevent AIDS.

"We're getting results back that indicate we're getting very strong immune responses in these individuals these people who received our vaccine," said Don Hildebrand, the president and CEO of GeoVax Inc., the company spearheading the research in collaboration with Emory, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Institutes of Health.

The vaccine uses a decoy virus with some of the genetic material of the aids virus but not enough for anyone to ever get the disease itself from the shot, according to Dr. Harriet Robinson, Ph. D., of the Emory Vaccine Center.

"It exposes your immune system to a pathogen like a virus or bacteria so before you've seen it you set up memory cells,” Dr. Robinson said, “and then these memory cells mobilize should you get the actual infection."

The test trials have been so successful that the vaccine is now more than a year ahead of schedule.

"Actually another two trials are starting later this year using different combinations of our vaccine and different administration programs,” said GeoVax CEO Hildebrand. “And following that presuming everything goes well we'll be starting a phase two program at the end of the year."

The vaccine works using a one-two pharmaceutical punch to prime the body then kill the virus.

“It raises both antibodies that can block the virus and it raises white blood cells called t cells that can kill the virus infected cells,” said Dr. Robinson. “So it really has two methods of controlling an HIV/AIDS infection once it enters the body."

The vaccine’s success with the simian AIDS virus has been nothing short of remarkable. Not only did the vaccine prevent the infection, it kept it under control for the monkeys that already had it, putting it in a kind of remission.

Researchers believe the same benefits await human subjects.


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