HIV vaccine race underway in India
The delayed Indian vaccine uses six modified genes from the strain of HIV that circulates in most of
It uses a 'Modified Vaccinia Ankara' (MVA) virus (a version of the vaccine created to eradicate smallpox) as a means of carrying the modified HIV virus genes into the blood of the people vaccinated.
Officials at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in Pune and National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Kolkata, which designed and developed the vaccine, said they did not know when the trials would start.
The approval of trials of the foreign vaccine has raised questions over why the Indian vaccine has not yet received the green signal, and there are conflicting versions of its progress.
NARI's officer-in-charge Ramesh Paranjape says the organisation is awaiting information on the MVA vaccine from IAVI, while Sekhar Chakrabarti, the scientist at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases who designed the Indian vaccine, says it seems the vaccine "is now on the shelf".
Informed sources told SciDev.Net the vaccine did not produce a sufficient immune response during pre-clinical tests. This May, an Indian newspaper quoted IAVI's medical director Jean-Louis Excler as saying there were "scientific hiccups" in the process.
Excler told SciDev.Net that pre-clinical tests showed the vaccine was safe and that it was able to provoke an immune response in animals, thus allowing for the preparation of clinical trials. He added that IAVI has started the process of applying for regulatory clearance to conduct the trials.
When tested in monkeys, the rAAV vaccine generated antibodies (proteins in the immune system that fight infection) to prevent infection of new cells, and white blood cells that kill any cells that are already infected. The immune responses lasted for up to one year. According to Paranjape, similarly promising results have emerged from research into mice.
A second Indian HIV vaccine, developed by Pradeep Seth's team at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in