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National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Monday, Jan. 24, 2005

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NIAID News Office
(301) 402-1663
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NIAID Begins Enrolling Volunteers
for Novel HIV Vaccine Study

A large clinical trial of a novel HIV vaccine has begun enrolling volunteers at sites in North America, South America, the Caribbean and Australia. Organizers are seeking 1,500 participants.

The trial is co-funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc. Merck developed the experimental vaccine to stimulate HIV-specific cellular immunity, which prompts the body to produce T cells that kill HIV-infected cells. In previous smaller trials, this vaccine was found to be safe and to induce cellular immune responses against HIV in more than half of volunteers.

“This new study is the first time we have used such a large sample of people to test whether a vaccine that stimulates cellular immunity alone either blocks HIV infection, decreases the level of HIV early in infection or both,” says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of NIAID.

This proof-of-concept trial is designed to yield vital information on the potential efficacy of cellular immunity against HIV, although it is not expected to provide enough data to support immediate licensing of the vaccine for public use, says Margaret (Peggy) Johnston, Ph.D., who oversees HIV vaccine research at NIAID’s Division of AIDS.

The Merck vaccine contains a weakened adenovirus that serves as a carrier for three subtype B HIV genes. Subtype B is the most prevalent HIV subtype in the regions of the study sites. Adenoviruses are among the main causes of upper respiratory tract ailments such as the common cold. Because the vaccine contains only three HIV genes housed in a weakened adenovirus, study participants cannot become infected with HIV or get a respiratory infection from the vaccine.

“If this study finds that the vaccine can prevent or control infection, we will work with Merck to evaluate the vaccine in a larger number of volunteers,” adds Dr. Johnston.  “We will also work with the company to determine the best vaccine design to test in parts of the world where other subtypes of HIV are circulating.”

The study will be conducted jointly by NIAID’s multicenter HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) and by Merck. The lead researchers are Michael Robertson, M.D., of Merck and two HVTN investigators: Susan Buchbinder, M.D., of the San Francisco Department of Public Health and Daniel Fitzgerald, M.D., of Cornell University.

The organizers are seeking healthy, HIV-negative men and women volunteers between the ages of 18 and 45 who are at an increased risk of acquiring HIV. The researchers plan to enroll a significant number of volunteers from populations particularly hard-hit by AIDS, including African Americans and other ethnic minorities.

The trials will take place in the following locations:

  • North America: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto
  • South America: Iquitos and Lima, Peru
  • Caribbean:  Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Australia: Sydney

Organizers expect that it will take approximately one year to fully enroll volunteers into the study. NIAID and Merck expect the trial be completed in four-and-a-half years, with results anticipated in 2010. For more information on enrolling, visit HVTN’s Web site.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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NIAID Archive

Important note: Information on this page was accurate at the time of publication. This page is no longer being updated.

Last Updated January 24, 2005