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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
HIV vaccine trials 'in three years'
Cells of the HIV virus
Cells of the HIV virus
An expert in HIV vaccine development has said he hopes there will be a working vaccine available for widespread trials in around three years.

But Dr Seth Berkeley, president of the International Aids Vaccines Initiative (IAVA) said creating the infrastructure to produce and deliver the vaccine to the public could take much longer.

The IAVI estimate around 60m people have been infected with HIV around the world.

The UK National Aids Trust says there are 30,000 people in the UK living with HIV and Aids.


Our mission is to ensure the development of a safe, effective, accessible HIV vaccine throughout the world

Dr Seth Berkeley, IAVI
HIV experts from around the world are holding a seminar in London on Monday to outline the latest developments in HIV vaccine development.

The IAVA calls the current situation "woefully inadequate".

Only one vaccine is currently in Phase III, the most advanced stages of trials, a second is in Phase II and others are in the early stages of development.

Dr Berkeley told BBC News Online: "Our mission is to ensure the development of a safe, effective, accessible HIV vaccine throughout the world.

"We have to have a working vaccine."

Vaccines in development

But he warned, even if scientists were successful, it could take five years to build the plant which would produce a vaccine.

Ensuring developing countries can afford the delivery costs of the vaccine as well as the cost of the actual product was also important, said Dr Berkeley.

He gave the example of childhood vaccines, which cost less than $1 to produce, but cost around $18 to deliver.

The most advanced vaccine is AIDSVAX, which is made from a portion of HIV's outer surface protein called gp120.

It works by introducing a harmless portion of the HIV protein into the body. The hepatitis B vaccine successfully uses the same approach.

A second vaccine genetically engineers the relatively harmless canarypox virus so that it contains HIV proteins, which then stimulate HIV-specific immune responses.

A number of other vaccines based on the same principal are in earlier stages of development.

Availability

Dr Berkeley said vaccines had to be available in forms such as single vaccines, so they were suitable for developing countries.

He welcomed the fact 10% of the research budget for HIV was now devoted to developing a vaccine, up from 5% a few years ago.

But he said "given the magnitude of the challenge", the percentage needed to be even higher.

"Only a vaccine can end the epidemic."

In order to ensure poorer countries are able to access any vaccine which is developed, the IAVI ask companies working on research to agree to make the vaccine available at an affordable price the developing world.

Dr Berkeley said: "We say, if you don't do that, we have the right to take that vaccine and give it to someone else to produce."

See also:

06 Sep 01 | Americas
Aids vaccine 'in sight'
06 Sep 01 | Health
'Friendly virus' may fight HIV
10 Sep 01 | Health
HIV drugs misused
25 Jun 01 | Health
Warning over Aids complacency
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