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IAVI hails start of AIDS vaccine testing in South Africa

November 03, 2003

NEW YORK, 3 November 2003—The nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) today hailed the start of the first of several human trials to be conducted in South Africa to test vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS.

“This marks one of the great moments in the global effort to stop the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by developing a preventive vaccine,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of IAVI. “South Africa, which has one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates, joins its sister countries of Botswana, Kenya and Uganda to conduct trials to test promising AIDS vaccine candidates.”

The first trial to begin in South Africa will test a preventive AIDS vaccine candidate named AVX101 designed by the US biotechnology company AlphaVax Inc. AVX101 is intended to prevent people who are uninfected with HIV/AIDS from contracting the disease.

The trial of AVX101 is being conducted by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) of the US government’s National Institutes of Health in association with the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative. The trial was approved in June by the South Africa Medicines Control Council (MCC). It is a small-scale trial, the first of many trials that will be required to study the candidate. A small-scale trial of AVX101 is also underway in the US.

A separate trial of a different preventive AIDS vaccine candidate is anticipated to begin in South Africa later this month. This small-scale trial will test a candidate named HIVA.MVA being researched by IAVI, the University of Nairobi, the University of Oxford, the UK Medical Research Council and the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The trial was approved by the South Africa MCC in August. Small-scale trials of HIVA.MVA are underway in Kenya, Uganda and the UK.

“IAVI is proud to be supporting the HIVA.MVA candidate and to have provided support for the early development of the AVX101 candidate. By testing multiple AIDS vaccine candidates at once, each designed differently, South Africa will help speed the time to success,” Dr. Berkley said. “A preventive vaccine is our best hope to stop the spread of the epidemic, and we need commitment at every level to make a vaccine a reality.”

IAVI (www.iavi.org) 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.