The Chatter

University of Maryland to Test HIV Vaccine on Humans

Institute of Human Virology and Dr. Robert Gallo to begin testing vaccine on 60 people.

Just a few months ago, we got HIV/AIDS pioneer Dr. Robert Gallo and city health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen in a room together for September’s “Conversation Issue.” The two doctors discussed many things, including drug addiction and how to make a healthier Baltimore.

Dr. Gallo also broke the news about an exciting development: “Within a month or two, we’ll be having an announcement here, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that our candidate vaccine starts Phase I.”

Last week that announcement became official and, after 15 years of developing the HIV vaccine, University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology is launching its first clinical trial on humans. Enrollment for the trials began on October 1.

Known as a Phase I study, the trial expects to enroll 60 people and will assess safety and immune responses of the vaccine, which uniquely targets parts of the surface proteins that HIV tries to hide. The goal is that antibodies produced by the vaccine will bind to those parts and prevent infection.

“While we still have more important basic research to do to crack the antibody protection challenge,” Dr. Gallo said in a statement, “this first step is an important one for us to learn how people [rather than test animals] respond.”

To read more about Dr. Gallo’s advancement in HIV/AIDS and how it relates to Baltimore, see the full conversation here.