NewsAIDS Research

Impending AIDS Vaccine Trial Opens Old Wounds

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Science  30 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5351, pp. 650
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5351.650

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Plans by a biotech company to begin so-called phase III trials of an HIV vaccine in the United States and Thailand have provoked strong reactions from AIDS researchers, who remain badly split over what kinds of vaccines are likely to work. And a report in the February issue of the Journal of Virology casts doubts on whether vaccines like the one to be used in the trials protect against HIV. The company does not yet have formal approval from U.S. or Thai authorities to proceed with phase III trials, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved phase I and II trials--which test for safety and early signs of efficacy--of a modified version of a vaccine that has already gone through toxicity testing, and Thai authorities are expected to give their nod in the coming weeks. Moreover, a company representative says the FDA's vaccine advisory committee has given its blessing to its plans to move to phase III once these trials reconfirm the safety of the vaccine, which is made from a genetically engineered version of a protein called gp120 that makes up much of the outer coat of HIV.