The Italian Almanac

Barbara Ensoli

Italian Science - July 6

Encouraged by an initial trial, Italy wants to launch a larger-scale human test of its AIDS vaccine in Africa in the hope of having it ready for the market by 2011, the project's chief researcher said on Tuesday. Barbara Ensoli of Italy's National Health Institute began the small-scale trial involving 47 volunteers at four different clinics in Italy in 2003 and was aiming for results in 2006.

"The information we've gathered allows us to affirm that the vaccine is safe and well tolerated in all subjects," Ensoli told a press conference to announce plans for Phase II of the trials. "We also had much better immunogenicity results than we expected, so we're going to move to Phase II ahead of schedule," she said. Immunogenicity is the strength and breadth of an immune response.

Around 30 vaccines are being tested in small-scale human trials around the world. Only a dozen have moved to Phase II, when the focus shifts from safety to effectiveness, according to the U.S.-based AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC).

Ensoli's vaccine is unique in that it acts on the TAT, a protein essential for the replication of the virus, instead of trying to block the virus itself. The vaccine has been tested in both preventative trials and in therapeutic trials to see if it can be used to treat people already infected with HIV as well as prevent the disease.