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Medical pioneer closing in on AIDS vaccine

Serinah Ho

Monday, November 08, 2010

A pioneering AIDS researcher has unveiled a new way to tackle HIV infections - HIV vaccinations.

Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center director and chief executive David Ho Da-i, who has devoted his life to developing anti- viral drugs to treat AIDS patients, yesterday told a medical conference in Hong Kong his team has been working on a vaccine against HIV.

"This HIV vaccine under research could be a substitute for the conventional method of treating AIDS by taking pills on time after they have been diagnosed. HIV patients can be treated by injecting the vaccine - ready- made antibodies," Ho said, adding patients may have to inject themselves regularly to keep up their levels of antibodies.

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"If the research goes smoothly, I'll conduct more human and animal trials in the coming two years so that the vaccine can be used as a treatment method at a later time."

Ho also compared HIV vaccines with flu vaccines.

"This HIV vaccine is a passive approach - ready-made antibodies, since no internal reaction within the human body is needed to form antibodies. The flu vaccine is not ready- made antibodies but antibodies formed by the body's reaction."

He described the HIV vaccine as "a modern biological technology which make antibodies outside the human body."

Ho said he hopes to change the nature of medicines.

"Under the existing treatment, HIV patients have to take large doses of pills on time and frequently throughout their lives. I hope to reduce the dosage to one pill per month."

Ho first developed a form of the HIV vaccine, called ADVAX, in 2004 after 18 months of human trials.

His invention provides completely synthetic DNA that instructs the body's cells to create the proteins desired so that the immune system can recognize proteins more easily.

According to the Department of Health, a total of 4,443 HIV infections were recorded in Hong Kong since the first case was detected in 1984. The number of new HIV cases was 435 in 2008 and 396 last year.


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