Dr. Chil-Yong Kang of Western University and his team of researchers have been making waves in the scientific community for their development of a prophylactic vaccine against HIV. More than 36 million people around the world are currently living with the virus, and almost as many have died from AIDS-related diseases since its discovery in 1983. Over the years, there have been countless efforts to produce a drug or vaccine against HIV but they have met with little success.
What sets Dr. Kang’s research apart from previous attempts is that his vaccine uses a deactivated whole HIV-1 virus to build the body’s natural immune system against it. Although vaccines against diseases such as polio and hepatitis A use a similar approach, it is controversial in the fight against HIV as the virus’s quick mutation rate makes it difficult to inactivate completely. To overcome this issue, Dr. Kang’s team genetically modified the HIV-1 virus using genes from honeybees and further used chemical treatment and gamma radiation to ensure the virus is entirely deactivated.
Phase I trials were completed in 2013 using 33 HIV-1 infected subjects. The results exceeded expectations – the vaccine produced no adverse effects in the subjects and even showed signs of increasing immunity against the virus. Phase II is to begin in 2017 and will further test this immune response.
SAV001 has been approved by the FDA for human testing, and the R&D costs for the vaccine are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the government of Canada. Currently, Sumagen Canada, a subsidiary of Sumagen Co., Ltd. holds the Exclusive License for the development and subsequent commercialization of vaccine. If human trials produce desirable results, the company will look towards collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to sell the vaccine in countries around the world.
UAEM is a group that is focused on the importance of increasing access of vaccines and drugs to lower and middle income areas, especially in developing countries. Through Western’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), Sumagen Canada has secured patents for SAV001 in 70 countries, including China and India. While this is great news, life-saving drug patents cannot be handled on a case-by-case basis, which highlights the importance of setting a framework such as the GALF that allows the university’s medicine and biotechnology innovations to be accessible to low- and middle- income areas around the globe.
For more information on the biochemistry behind the vaccine and to learn more about the R&D process, please visit the following websites:
In-depth information on SAV001: http://www.natap.org/2013/newsUpdates/092313_01.htm
Vaccine access and R&D: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news-stories/special-report/giving-developing-countries-best-shot-overview-vaccine-access-and-rd
Role of universities in the access to drugs fight: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0030136&type=printable
More coverage on SAV001: http://mediarelations.uwo.ca/2016/12/01/western-virologist-hopes-test-vaccine-600-hiv-negative-subjects-next-fall/
Information on the Global Access Licensing Framework: http://uaem.org/our-work/global-access-licensing-framework/
Written by: Jasleen Dayed
Jasleen is currently in her first year of undergraduate studies at Western University and serves as one of UAEM Western's Report Card Leaders