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Phase I vaccine trial ongoing in Russia

The first AIDS vaccine candidate developed by Russian scientists, known as Vichrepol, is now in Phase I clinical trials. Descriptions of this candidate and the ongoing study were presented in posters at both the International AIDS Conference in Toronto (see Spotlight article) and the AIDS Vaccine 06 conference held from August 29 to September 1 in Amsterdam. Vichrepol is a recombinant protein vaccine comprised of fragments of HIV proteins administered with an adjuvant known as polyoxidonium, which is already used with a licensed influenza vaccine.

The ongoing clinical trial involves 15 volunteers who receive 3 intramuscular injections of the vaccine candidate at 5 different doses. The dose is only escalated once the safety and tolerability of the lower dose is established. So far two of the five doses have been evaluated and no side effects or safety issues have been reported. The poster presented at the AIDS Vaccine 06 conference reported that the vaccine candidate induced antibody responses and suggested that subsequent studies will be needed to fully evaluate its safety and immunogenicity.

By the end of last year there were 350,000 documented HIV infections in Russia and the epidemic continues to expand at an alarming pace. As in many other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the majority of new HIV infections in Russia are occurring amongst injection drug users. Russia recently announced plans to create a vaccine research center for Eastern Europe and Central Asia to work on developing and testing other AIDS vaccine candidates (see VAX July 2006 Global News)