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Row over Aids vaccine
Lab work
Trials of the vaccine have started
A row over patenting threatens to disrupt work on a vaccine for Aids.

Scientists from Britain and Kenya have been working closely together for five years on a vaccine for the disease.

However, the Kenyan scientists, from Nairobi University, have complained that their names were omitted from the patent application.


In most cases, our researchers claim to be playing a leading role and yet they are being used as spanner boys

Dr Khama Rogo, Kenya Medical Association

This means that they would be exluded from any legal right to revenues from a vaccine successfully developed as a result of the research.

The two sides are meeting in Nairobi in an attempt to resolve the row.

However, Dr Anne-Marie Coriat, head of the Oxford University Medical Research Centre (MRC), said the Kenyan scientists had no claim over the intellectual rights to the vaccine as they had not conceived or designed the gene involved.

She said: "The individuals who came up with the concept and design of the gene to be used as the basis of the vaccine were two MRC scientists.

"The new immunogen was designed in the MRC Human Immunology Unit using publicly available information - there are no Kenyan inventors."

However, Dr Coriat said the British side very much wanted to share any revenues with the Kenyans.

Dr Khama Rogo, a former chairman of the Kenya Medical Association, charged last week that "in most cases, our researchers claim to be playing a leading role and yet they are being used as spanner boys.

"We need to know if we are involved as equal partners."

Prostitute immunity

The project is based on research which appears to show that some prostitutes in the Nairobi slums have developed an immunity to the virus that causes Aids.

The first trials of the vaccine started in the UK in August.

At this stage only the safety of the vaccine is under examination, not its effectiveness. Scientists will be evaluating whether it has any adverse effects on the body.

However, even if these early studies go well, it could still be a decade before a mass-produced vaccine could be produced.

The Oxford University team was reportedly "dismayed" earlier this year when some of the former prostitutes appeared to lose their immunity and contracted HIV.

Some believe that it was the constant exposure to the virus which allowed them to develop the immunity, and on stopping work, they became vulnerable.

The vaccine would only target one strain of the HIV virus.

However, the Oxford team is hopeful if the vaccine is a success, the technology can be modified to tackle all the different strains of HIV.

Scientists aiming to produce Aids vaccines face a variety of problems, not least the mutating nature of the virus.

Different areas of the globe have different types of HIV, meaning that differently formulated vaccines would need to be produced for Africa.

See also:

31 Aug 00 | Health
26 Jan 00 | Health
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