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University of Western Ontario launches new HIV vaccine trial

BY ROB SALERNO –  Researchers at the University of Western Ontario have announced that they’re set to launch human trials of a new HIV vaccine in January after receiving approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Previous attempts to create a vaccine have had disappointing results. This new trial uses a vaccine that has been created from deactivated whole HIV virus cells, whereas previous trials have used only portions of the virus.

The research team is led by Dr Chil-Yong Kang (pictured below) and is financed by Sumagen Canada, a local branch of a Korean pharmaceutical venture company that’s been created to invest in Kang’s research into both therapeutic and prophylactic HIV vaccines. 

You may recall that the Harper government redirected funding from community AIDS services organizations toward building a new vaccine research facility, and that University of Western Ontario was one of the institutions competing to host the facility. You may also remember that last year, the Harper government quietly killed the vaccine research facility plan without restoring the community services organizations’ funding, ostensibly because there weren’t enough talented researchers in Canada


The upshot of this is that if the vaccine is successful, it will be owned by a Korean venture capital company and manufactured in the United States, for want of our government’s willingness to invest in promising and critical science and medical research.

If all goes according to plan, clinical trials will begin in January with toxicology trials on 40 HIV-positive volunteers before being expanded to HIV-negative people in high-risk groups. If all goes well, it would still be years before the vaccine is approved. 

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