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Inovio readies candidate HIV vaccine

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Scientists have been looking for a vaccine against the AIDS virus for more than 25 years. A Montgomery County company is one of the latest biotech firms to try out its test vaccine in humans.

It’s a small, Phase One trial with 48 people. Inovio Pharmaceuticals is testing both its new PennVaxB vaccine and a new way to deliver it.

The technology is called electroporation. CEO Joseph Kim says you still need a needle to place the candidate vaccine under the skin, but then a mild electrical pulse pushes the vaccine past cell membranes.

Kim: These boundaries are designed to keep the bad things away because most foreign things are bad news. So we have to coax our vaccines to get into the cells. Unless you do that, the vaccine can not be effective.

PennVaxB is a DNA vaccine engineered from the genetic blueprint for the AIDS virus. That’s different from conventional vaccines which are made from parts of a virus.

Inovio’s candidate vaccine was designed to protected against HIV strains common in North America and Western Europe.

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