World AIDS day marked by new vaccine progress

Despite recent setbacks in the search for a new AIDS vaccine, developers are continuing to report fresh progress in the field.

GeoVax Labs chose World AIDS day to announce that it is launching a Phase II trial of a new vaccine at 12 sites in collaboration with the NIH and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. The trial will study the effects of the vaccine on 225 volunteers. GeoVax was spun out of Emory University in 2001.

The failure of an experimental Merck vaccine in 2007 presented a major setback to scientists beavering away at new therapies for HIV/AIDS. But they haven't given up on their work. Chinese scientists say they're making progress on a new AIDS vaccine as well. And PhRMA reports that there are 29 vaccines and 57 antivirals in development for HIV/AIDS.

Researchers are acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead in finding an HIV vaccine. Wayne Koff, senior vice president of research and development at the International AIDS Vaccine InitiativeIV Vaccine, told the Washington Post that a single infected patient has a greater variety of strains of the virus in his body than all the varieties of flu strains in circulation around the world. HIV inserts a segment of its DNA into the human genome, presenting a unique challenge to researchers on a decades-long quest to vanquish the virus.

- read the Atlanta Journal Constitution's article on GeoVax
- read the Washington Post report on the challenges researchers face
- check out the story on China's vaccine in Xinhuanet