New HIV Vaccine Ready For Human Testing

The vaccine, developed by Dr. Robert Gallo, is designed to bind to the virus at the moment of infection.

A new AIDS vaccine is about to be tested in the U.S., one developed by Robert Gallo, the scientist who first proved that HIV caused AIDS.

The first phase of the study will involve 60 volunteers testing the safety and immune response of the vaccine, and will last a year. Determining whether it’s actually effective is a little ways away, but extensive testing on monkeys has had positive results.

There have been more than 100 HIV vaccines tested, but the virus is tricky to combat—once it enters white blood cells (T-cells), it’s invisible to the immune system. Gallo and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology believe they have discovered when HIV is vulnerable to detection.

WASHINGTON - MAY 08:  HIV co-discoverers Robert C. Gallo (R) and Luc A.Montagnier (C) speak at the National Press Club May 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Gallo and Montagnier spoke about ongoing threats related to HIV during their appearance at the National Press Club.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“Our HIV/AIDS vaccine candidate is designed to bind to the virus at the moment of infection, when many different strains of HIV found around the world can be neutralized,” Gallo told the Baltimore Sun. “We believe this mechanism is a major prerequisite for an effective HIV preventive vaccine.”

The vaccine has been in development for some 15 years, but Gallo says that’s because his team has been very thorough in vetting the vaccine in animal testing, and because getting funding to entering into human testing has been difficult.

“Was anything a lack of courage?” he asked Science. “Sure. We wanted more and more answers before going into people.”

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.