There are 4.58 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India, up from 3.97 million a year ago. To stem the flood of new infections, something needs to be done fast. Realising this, scientists in India have accelerated their HIV/AIDS vaccine programme and brought the deadline forward. Dr NK Ganguly, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), says Phase-I trials will begin in the middle of next year and if all goes well, the prototype should be ready for manufacture by 2007. He spoke to Sanchita Sharma:
Which stage of development is the AIDS vaccine at?
The Indian AIDS vaccine will enter Phase I human trials in the middle of 2004 and the dossier on the trial is ready for submission to the health ministry. We have already conducted extensive toxicology studies on animals and found the vaccine to be safe. Now the vaccine’s safety for humans will be tested in a small group of healthy human volunteers in the Phase-I trials.
If all the trials go well, how long will it take for the vaccine to be produced and marketed?
We have really accelerated the development and a prototype for production should be ready by 2007. Three Indian companies have been shortlisted and whoever is chosen will be expected to set up a dedicated plant to produce the vaccine in large volumes. Since the development and production will be indigenous, the cost of the vaccine will not be high. Initially, it will be available to people in the high-risk groups -- sex-workers, migrants, truckers etc -- and when their needs are met, to the general population.