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IAVI begins AIDS vaccine trials in South Africa, Switzerland

November 12, 2003

NEW YORK, 12 November 2003—The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) today began human trials in South Africa and Switzerland to test HIVA.MVA, a candidate vaccine to prevent people uninfected with HIV/AIDS from contracting the disease. This brings to five the number of countries where this vaccine candidate currently is in trials.

In South Africa, HIVA.MVA is the second preventive AIDS vaccine candidate to begin a trial in the country this month. The trial of HIVA.MVA is being conducted at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and the Medical Research Council in Durban. AIDS vaccine research in South Africa is coordinated by the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

In Switzerland, the trial of HIVA.MVA is being conducted at the University of Lausanne.

The South African and Swiss researchers are collaborating with a global team sponsored by IAVI and including the University of Nairobi and the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative; the Uganda Virus Research Institute; and the University of Oxford and UK Medical Research Council. Trials of HIVA.MVA are underway in Kenya, Uganda and the UK.

“By conducting a number of trials of HIVA.MVA simultaneously, in Africa and Europe, IAVI hopes to reduce the time needed to evaluate the vaccine’s potential,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of IAVI. “A preventive vaccine is the best hope to end the spread of a disease that infects 15,000 men, women and children worldwide every day.”

HIVA.MVA is designed as a preventive vaccine. It is intended to protect people uninfected with HIV/AIDS from contracting the disease. HIVA.MVA uses a vaccine design strategy called modified vaccinia Ankara, a variant of the basis for the smallpox vaccine. HIVA.MVA is designed so that there is no possibility of it causing HIV infection or AIDS.

All of the trials of HIVA.MVA now underway are all small-scale trials. Their primary aim is to test for safety. They will also gather preliminary data on the ability of the candidate vaccine to stimulate the human immune system to fight HIV/AIDS.

In South Africa, the first preventive AIDS vaccine candidate to begin a trial is called AVX101 and is being researched by AlphaVax Inc. and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. AVX101 uses a different vaccine design strategy from HIVA.MVA, called VEE alphavirus vector. IAVI provided early financial and technical support for research into AVX101.

IAVI ( is a nonprofit scientific organization working to speed the search for a preventive AIDS vaccine. IAVI sponsors public-private partnerships to conduct research to develop vaccine candidates. IAVI’s major financial supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Rockefeller, Sloan and Starr foundations; the World Bank; BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.); and the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.