AIDS vaccine trial in India

Published in The Hindu on February 7, 2006

The Phase I clinical trial of the AIDS test vaccine was initiated last week at the Tuberculosis Research Centre (TRC) here.

This is the second such trial being conducted in India jointly by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Government of India. The first trial was started last February in Pune.

Enrolment of volunteers for the Chennai vaccine trial TBC-M4 has started. The vaccine uses a recombinant Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) as a vector to carry six HIV-1 subtype C genes. It is a live vector derived from vaccinia virus and is not known to replicate in humans, as it is a highly weakened form.

The test vaccine was administered on a volunteer at TRC, Chennai, on February 3.

“The most important point is that the vaccine trail has been started and the recruitment [of volunteers] is an on going process,” said Jean-Louis Excler, Director, Medical Affairs, IAVI, New Delhi.

The Chennai vaccine trial would enrol 32 volunteers and would be conducted over 18 months. “It will take 18 months for each volunteer,” Dr. Excler said. This is important as the enrolling procedure is an on going process.

The results of the Chennai Phase I trial are expected to become available by mid 2008.

The Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (YRG CARE), a non-profit organisation, in close collaboration with TRC, would be involved in the community mobilisation and recruitment of volunteers, said Suniti Solomon, Director, YRG CARE.

YRG CARE is sensitising the community by going to banks, colleges, factories and to other communities and talking about the vaccine. Those interested would then come to the organisation to get the details.

The test vaccine candidate for the Chennai trial has been developed by Therion Biologics based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., with the assistance of Sekhar Chakrabarti of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata.

The AIDS test vaccine trial at the National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, was initiated on February 7 last year.