The first phase of human clinical trials for a HIV vaccine developed in Canada has been a resounding success.
OBB recently blogged about The Dream Project and the success it is having in helping to give effective antiretroviral treatment to those suffering from HIV/AIDS, and so helping to improve both their quality and length of life. Moreover, through education they are a small part of the jigsaw that has helped, in recent years, to effectively fight back against the once ominously destructive march of the AIDS virus. Recent news this week brings even more hope to the fight against AIDS and allows, for the first time, a very real, scientifically based hope that the AIDS epidemic can be stopped and eventually eradicated. Ten years ago this would have been deemed impossible, as the stuff of myth and unfounded dreaming.
Through the wonders of the science of genetic modification, great intelligence, endurance, and consummate skill, scientists at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry of Western University, Canada, have made an incredible breakthrough, after two decades of work, and may well have produced a vaccine to prevent HIV infection. Led by Dr. Chil-Yong Kan, the team at work used a rare process called the “killed whole virus vaccine strategy”, which is based on genetically modifying “dead” versions of the HIV virus. Through research, they found that if the “Nef gene” was deleted from the virus, AIDS was not caused. When this version of the virus was combined with glycoprotein signal peptide, the team at Western University were able to produce large quantities of the virus that was less dangerous and less potent. Further genetic modification, through processes which are beyond my comprehension, involved the complete inactivating of the HIV virus by way of chemical and radiation processes. Essentially, as with all vaccines, the introduction of this genetically-modified HIV vaccine (HIV-1) into humans will not cause AIDS but will trigger immune responses.
The current version of this vaccine has been developed to most-effectively combat subtype b HIV, which is most prevalent in North America, parts of South America, West Europe, and Australia. The prototype, if successful in preventing HIV, can then be customized for use in many different regions around the world. However, it may be another 5 years until the product is commercially available as rigorous requirements have to be met and Phase II and III human clinical trials completed.
News like this gives hope to all of us that the seemingly impossible is very often not. Hard-work, intelligence, perseverance, and an element of belief, can allow us, in whatever capacity, to overcome the greatest of obstacles. The eradication of AIDS, or at least the development of an affective, preventative vaccine, would be yet another astonishing milestone in the great litany of human endeavors and scientific successes.