Australia Wins HIV Vaccine Contract

Tuesday, 25 July, 2000

A consortium of Australian research institutions, led by the University of New South Wales has been awarded a contract from the US National Institute of Health (NIH) to develop and clinically test a potential preventative HIV vaccine.

The Australian National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases (ANCAHRD) has coordinated the efforts of all partnership members in pursuit of the goal to develop an effective vaccine for HIV.

A team of researchers from ANU, CSIRO and the Universities of Melbourne and Newcastle have developed vaccine technology knows as Co-X-Gene that is showing potential as an HIV vaccine. This product is licensed to Virax Holdings, an Australian company.

The contract will test the science on which the vaccine is based and further develop the vaccine. The strategy consists of two component parts: priming the DNA from HIV genes, and boosting with a genetically engineered avian poxvirus (Fowlpox) that contains parts of the HIV genome in addition to DNA for a human cytokine, which is a natural protein which stimulates the immune system.

If tests show that the 'prime and boost' technique is safe and effective in the laboratory, the vaccine will be evaluated in two clinical trials, one in Australia and one in a country of the developing world.

Researchers believe that vaccine initiatives must sit within a broader HIV-prevention strategy. Therefore, the potential impact of the vaccine on the risk behaviours of people exposed to HIV will also be assessed, and education and support services offered to trial participants.

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