Search for an HIV Vaccine Must Go On Says Expert in Light of Recent High-profile Merck Failure
According to a recent article published in The Independent (UK), most scientists involved in AIDS research believe that a vaccine against HIV is further away than ever with some admitting that effective immunization against the virus may never occur, according to an unprecedented poll conducted by the paper.
The article describes a mood of deep pessimism that has spread among the international community of AIDS scientists after the trial failure of a promising Merck vaccine last year. This was only the latest in a series of setbacks in the twenty-five-year struggle to develop an HIV vaccine. The article authors, Steve Connor and Chris Green, cite one of the major conclusions to emerge from the failed clinical trial of Merck’s promising prototype vaccine, is that an important animal model used for more than a decade in preclinical HIV testing on monkeys does not in fact work.
“The passion for an HIV vaccine resonates strongly among small pharma, whose often-overlooked approaches may now take center stage as the search for a viable HIV vaccine continues,” says Sylvain Fleury, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and Director at Mymetics, a vaccine company focused on malaria and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS).
“The failures of the past twenty-five years provide greater understanding of this complex disease. Each advances vaccine design, which improves our knowledge and may benefit various research fields. Testing HIV vaccine efficacy has been difficult because there are no perfect animal models; non-human primates (monkeys) being the closest with limitations.”
According to Dr. Fleury, for decades scientists have pursued vaccines that induce an immune protection during infection events that take place after HIV transmission, meaning once the HIV has crossed the mucosal tissues and has already infected cells. Now, it is becoming more evident that acting on earlier transmission events might improve the chance of blocking or slowing down HIV transmission. Dr. Fleury believes that pursuing and furthering a mucosa approach, one that focuses on preventing early HIV entry into the organism during the first minutes or hours following exposure to the HIV virus, may be the key to achieving a viable vaccine. The mucosa approach has not yet been widely explored, making Mymetics a pioneer in its research, research that has so far shown promising pre-clinical results.
Mymetics’ success is based on proprietary “know-how” and key intellectual property in matters of antigen engineering and vaccine design that have enabled the company to engineer an acknowledged vaccine candidate in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Topics for discussion:
• Did big pharma put “all their eggs in one basket” in developing an HIV vaccine?
• Why have approaches for vaccines focusing on antibody mucosal IgA been overlooked by big pharma and other entities supporting HIV research?
• Why might the mucosa approach for HIV vaccines, which elicits protection for preventing early infection within the first hours following exposure, hold hope for eradicating HIV?
• Why has it taken so long to develop a vaccine against HIV?
• Are there better animal models for clinical testing?
• What opportunities lie ahead for small pharma in this space now that Merck is no longer a contender?
• How does the Mymetics vaccine in development work to prevent infection?
About Dr. Sylvain Fleury, PhD, VP, Chief Scientific Officer, Director, Mymetics Corporation
Dr. Fleury was appointed Chief Scientific Officer of Mymetics Corporation in November 2003 and as a Director in January 2006. Prior to that, Dr. Fleury did academic research from 1993 to 2003 on immunology, AIDS, and lentivirus gene therapy in heart transplantation at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dr. Fleury obtained his B.Sc. in Microbiology in 1985 from the University of Montreal (Canada), his M.Sc. in Virology in 1988 from the Institut Armand-Frappier (Laval, Canada), and his PhD in 1992 from the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal in Canada with Rafick Sekaly. During his PhD research, Dr. Fleury worked on the CD4 molecule, which is the primary HIV cellular receptor. Dr. Fleury completed his postgraduate studies in Bethesda (USA) at the NIAID, National Institutes of Health (NIH), with world-renowned immunologist Dr. Ronald N. Germain. Dr. Fleury is the recipient of several awards and prizes and has published articles in his field of study in several highly regarded scientific journals including Science, Cell, Nature, Nature Medicine, and Circulation.
About Mymetics Corporation
Mymetics is a biotechnology company developing prophylactic vaccines that combine innovative antigen engineering, minimal human protein homologies, and virosome technology through a license acquired from Pevion Biotech. Mymetics’ vaccine approach is focused on eliciting immune protection capable of interfering with late events of pathogen transmission, coupled, most importantly, with early events of pathogen transmission, such as preventing the entry across the mucosal tissues that are very often the primary entry door of most of the pathogens. Virosomes are biosynthetic vesicles representing reconstituted empty influenza virus envelopes that serve as a highly efficient vaccine delivery system with intrinsic adjuvant potential. The Company’s disease focus presently includes malaria and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Source: Investor Relations Group
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