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AIDS vaccine: Chennai trial results encouraging

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AIDS vaccine: Chennai trial results encouraging


All in the high-dose group who got the vaccine showed immune response


The vaccine tested contains six HIV genes inserted into the MVA vector

The MVA vaccine construct used in the trial was developed by a

Kolkata based scientist


There appears to be a greater possibility of finding an efficacious

AIDS vaccine. The preliminary results of the Phase I trial of the

AIDS vaccine undertaken in Chennai have been largely encouraging.

The trial undertaken at the Tuberculosis Research Centre (TRC), using

the Modified Vaccine Ankara (MVA) vector has shown the ability to

elicit immune response.

Unlike the three doses used at the National AIDS Research Institute

(NARI) trial, Pune, the Phase I trial at TRC involved just two doses —

a high dose (2.5x10{+8}) and a low dose (5x10{+7}).

Vaccine safety

Much like the AAV vaccine tested at NARI, the vaccine tested at TRC

has been found to be safe at both the doses.

But where the MVA has probably scored better compared with AAV, at

this stage, is the number of volunteers who received the vaccine

recording an immune response.

" We have seen 75 per cent immune response [9 out of 12 volunteers]

with the low dose and 100 per cent with the high dose [all the 12

volunteers] after three injections, " said Dr. V.D. Ramanathan, Deputy

Director (Department of Clinical Pathology) at TRC and the Principal

Investigator of the vaccine trial. The level of immune response seen,

among other details, will be known only after the final analysis of

the data.

The immune response seen after just two injections were given to the

volunteers was good.

According to Dr. Ramanathan, 66 per cent immune response (8 out of 12

volunteers) was seen in the low dose group and 92 per cent (11 out of

12 volunteers) in the case of high dose group.

It may be recalled that vaccine trial at Chennai was started in

February 2006 (The Hindu, February 9, 2006) and involved 32

volunteers who were split into two groups of 16 each.

Of the 16 in each group, 12 received the vaccine and four received a

placebo (dummy).

Final results

While the 18 months follow-up of the volunteers belonging to the low

dose category has been completed, the required follow-up of those in

the high dose group will be completed in the first week of February


The first volunteer to be given the high dose was in the first week

of August 2006.

The preliminary immunogenicity (immune response) result was presented

during the AIDS vaccine conference at Seattle. The final results will

be available only in mid-2008.

So will there be a surprise in the final results? " How the

immunogenicity will translate into actual protection remains to be

seen, " said Dr. Ramanathan. Dr. Fast, Executive Director

(Medical Affairs) of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, New

York in an email communication to this Correspondent noted, " …We

expect that the [interim data result] is close to the final

responses. "

Only Phase II and Phase III trials involving larger number of people

would help in knowing this crucial issue.

" The results of the first trial suggest that further clinical

research is warranted, " Dr. Fast noted. She also indicated that the

conduct of further clinical research will depend on the Indian


The man behind

If the MVA vaccine has shown encouraging results in the Phase I

trial, the full credit should go to the person who was responsible

for producing the MVA vaccine construct — Dr. Sekar Chakraborty,

Deputy Director of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric

Diseases, Kolkata.

Unlike the vaccine tested in Pune (AAV) that contained only three HIV

genes put into the vector, the MVA has six genes.

But it is not just the number of genes that has probably resulted in

better immune responses. The six genes have been put in two different

positions of the MVA genome. This is unique and thus different from

the other MVA constructs developed by people abroad.

Dr. Chakraborty had also modified the natural amino acids of three of

the six genes to enhance the immune response. Dr. Fast noted that it

is " …not yet possible to conclusively identify the reasons " for the

good showing of the MVA construct.

High stability

While the earlier MVA construct suffered from instability problems,

the construct developed by him has been shown to have 96 per cent


This increased stability has been achieved by putting the six HIV

genes in two different positions of the MVA genome.


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