Although this certainly will not be the first AIDS vaccine to enter
human trials, Merck's testing of a new vaccine appears promising.
David Baltimore, the chair of the National Institute of Health's AIDS
Vaccine Advisory Committee, suggested that members of the
panel--which heard details of the vaccine's progress during a closed-door
session last month--"were excited" about the prospects.
combine the vaccine with one it had tested earlier in a new trial for healthy,
uninfected patients to check the products' safety, a step in a long process
that has impressed researchers because of the thoroughness with which
Merck has performed its research to date.
Details of animal trials have yet
to be revealed, and while panelists who approved the human trials may not
reveal any specific information about Merck's testing, they claim the data
are impressive and the greater scientific community at large will learn of
the vaccine at a forum in Colorado in April.
While Merck chief of vaccine
research Emilio Emini notes pointedly that the vaccine "might fail," the drug
worked well in monkey trials, according to those close to the investigation,
and will enter tests in HIV-positive patients in four months, if the present
step is successful.