BETHESDA, MarylandWyeth Vaccines, a unit of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, has
won a 5-year, $22.8 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The contract was awarded by NIAID’s HIV Vaccine
Design and Development Teams (HVDDT) program, a public-private effort that
seeks to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines.
The vaccine under development by Wyeth has been shown to prevent an
AIDS-like disease in monkeys, who became infected but did not become ill. It
uses a genetically modified form of the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which
infects livestock, to ferry two HIV genes into the body, where the genes’
proteins boost the immune system against HIV.
Since the engineered virus contains only two HIV genes, not the entire
virus, it cannot cause HIV infection. Furthermore, the hybrid virus is
deliberately weakened to make it even safer.
Researchers hope the vaccine will stimulate both parts of the immune system:
specialized immune cells to kill any HIV-infected cells and antibodies to
neutralize free-floating HIV. The vaccine candidate had its origin in the Yale
University laboratory of NIAID grantee John K. Rose, PhD. The study in monkeys
showed it could be administered nasally, a potentially important advantage for
any vaccine destined for widespread use. Expanded animal tests are underway.