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Interesting Article
      #7204 - 07/14/00 06:21 PM

An interesting article from my hometown paper:

AIDS vaccine developed by 2007 is possible, scientists say

Friday, July 14, 2000

By Michael Woods, Post-Gazette National Bureau

DURBAN, South Africa -- Scientists expressed new optimism yesterday that an AIDS vaccine -- key to controlling an epidemic that strikes 5 million people worldwide each year -- could be developed within seven years.

"I think making an HIV/AIDS vaccine by 2007 does have the potential to become a reality," Dr. Margaret A. Liu, a pioneer AIDS vaccine researcher, said. "The commitment from governments and other organizations is stronger than ever before, and have made it a potential reality."

Liu, senior vice president for vaccine development at the Chiron Corporation, a biotechnology company in Emreyville, Calif., delivered the keynote address at the 13th International Conference on AIDS.

It was a day when the 12,700 scientists and other delegates focused on a vaccine for human immunodeficiency virus, which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Liu had agreed to speak on the topic, "An AIDS Vaccine by 2007: Myth or Reality?" Yet she carefully avoided answering the question in her formal talk, which emphasized difficulties lying ahead for vaccine developers. When pressed for an answer in a news briefing, however, she presented a more optimistic scenario.

President Clinton set the 2007 goal in a 1997 announcement of an intensive new research effort on an HIV vaccine.

Other scientists joined in the optimism, which was based on new understanding of the AIDS virus and greater commitment of money to vaccine development.

"The once-empty vaccine pipeline is beginning to fill, with a number of promising approaches in development," said Dr. Seth Berkley, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.

The program is sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations' AIDS program.

Scientists estimated that more than 30 "candidate," or potential, vaccines have been tested in about 6,000 human volunteers since 1987. Some are traditional vaccines that attempt to prevent infection with HIV. Others are so-called therapeutic vaccines, which would be used to boost the immune systems in people already infected with the AIDS virus.

Scores of others are in various stages of testing in the laboratory, on experimental animals and on human volunteers.

Some scientists suggested that successful vaccine would be one that people must take each year -- much like today's influenza vaccines. That's because HIV mutates, or changes its genetic character, so often that new strains constantly emerge. Vaccines would have to change to keep pace with HIV's changes.

Dr. Jose Esparza, who heads HIV vaccine development for the World Health Organization said the most promising candidate AIDS vaccine, which he said may be proved effective within a year, would be useless against the HIV strains devastating sub-Saharan Africa. About 70 percent of the 34 million people infected with HIV worldwide live in the region.

The vaccine, called AIDSVAX, is the only preventive vaccine that has survived to the most advanced stage of clinical trials in humans. It is being tested to see how well it prevents HIV infection in 8,000 volunteers in the United States, The Netherlands, and Thailand.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is participating in the AIDSVAX clinical trials.

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