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Second IAVI-Sponsored AIDS Vaccine for Africa Enters Human Trials in UK

March 14, 2001

The second IAVI-sponsored preventive AIDS vaccine designed specifically for Africa entered human trials 14 March in the UK with the inoculation of five volunteers. Testing of the vaccine will begin later in Kenya.

The MVA, or modified vaccinia Ankara, vaccine is the first of its kind to be tested in humans. Derived from virus sed in smallpox immunization, the vaccine aims to stimulate the production of a certain kind of immune cell that kills other cells infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The vaccine is attenuated through genetic modification so it cannot cause infection with either HIV or pox illnesses.

The MVA candidate is designed to be used in combination with an IAVI-sponsored DNA vaccine already in human testing in both the UK and Kenya. Both vaccines are based on HIV subtype A, the strain of the virus circulating in East Africa, and are the first preventive AIDS vaccines to be tested in humans that have been tailored to HIV-A.

“For years MVA AIDS vaccines showed considerable promise in animal testing, but sadly the approach languished in the world’s laboratories,” said Seth Berkley, M.D., IAVI’s president and CEO. “Today, thanks to the leadership of our partners in the UK, finally an MVA vaccine is being tested in humans.

“Promising vaccine candidates, such as this, must move as quickly as possible from pre-clinical development into human trials. We will never find an AIDS vaccine if we let good ideas die in the lab,” Dr. Berkley said.

The MVA vaccine was designed was designed by Dr. Tomas Hanke at the Medical Research Council Human Immunology Unit in Oxford and manufactured under contract by Impfstoffwerke Dessau-Tornau, GmbH (IDT), a pharmaceutical company in Rosslau, Germany.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is funding the DNA + MVA vaccine research through a partnership with scientists at Oxford University and the University of Nairobi in Kenya.