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First AIDS vaccine trial starts in Rwanda

A Phase I vaccine trial of a two-part vaccine developed by the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently began enrolling volunteers at a site in Kigali, Rwanda. This is the first AIDS vaccine trial to take place in the country and is being conducted by the NIH, IAVI, and Project San Francisco, a research organization that has been working in Kigali for almost 20 years.

The trial will test a two-part vaccine that first uses a DNA vaccination to 'prime' the immune system. The DNA fragment carries several HIV proteins from subtypes A, B, and C, the most common in Africa and parts of Asia. This is followed by a 'boost' vaccination with an adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5) vector carrying several HIV genes. The vaccine candidates can not cause infection with either HIV or adenovirus.

The candidates were developed at the VRC and yielded promising results in Phase I trials in the US. Several other Phase I and II trials testing the DNA/Ad5 candidates are either ongoing or expected to soon begin in several other countries including HVTN sites in North and South America, southern Africa, and the Caribbean. The prime-boost approach will also be tested at other clinical trials sites in partnership with IAVI and the US Military HIV Research Program.

"I'm really excited and pleased that these groups have taken the considerable effort to harmonize their trial plans," says Gary Nabel, director of the VRC. "Each of these organizations has a special strength," he adds, allowing the vaccine to be tested in different communities.