FDA approves testing of experimental HIV vaccine

After two decades of research, a group of Canadian scientists has gained approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin testing an experimental HIV vaccine on humans.
The vaccine will be given to 40 healthy people with HIV to test its safety in January. Chil-Yong Kang, a professor of virology at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario, referred to the FDA approval as a "milestone," the Toronto Star reports.
“We started the basic science research two decades ago,” Kang said, according to the Toronto Star. “The vaccine development, we started 10 years ago. This is incredible for us to get to this stage of development.”
The vaccine, called SAV001, is the first preventative HIV vaccine approved for clinical trails that uses a killed entire HIV-1 vaccine to activate the human immune response. This strategy has previously been used to develop successful vaccines for hepatitis A, rabies, polio and influenza. The virus used in the vaccine has been genetically altered to render it unable to cause disease and has been further inactivated with radiation and chemicals.
“In the past, people did not use this strategy (using a killed whole HIV virus) because people did not know how to make a safer virus and people did not know how to make large quantities of it,” Kang said, according to the Toronto Star. “Now we have solved those problems by the genetic engineering of the virus.”
According to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, there are 30 HIV vaccines that are now being tested in phase 1 clinical trials worldwide. There is as of yet no effective HIV vaccine. If the SAV001 is proven safe, the vaccine will enter the second phase of clinical trials, in which it would be tested on 600 HIV-negative volunteers at high risk for HIV infection. The third and final phase would enroll 6,000 HIV-negative volunteers at high risk for the disease. Half would receive vaccinations while the other half would not. All participants would be tracked over the course of three years.