Human trials of more than 100 different AIDS vaccines have taken place since researchers proved in 1984 that HIV caused the disease. Robert Gallo, whose U.S. National Cancer Institute laboratory published the four landmark papers in Science that convinced the world of the link between this recently discovered retrovirus and the growing epidemic, has closely monitored—and often sharply critiqued—the AIDS vaccine search since it began. But Gallo, who now runs the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) in Baltimore, Maryland, has always been a spectator—until today.
Gallo’s team has been developing a vaccine with an unusual method of protection for 15 years and is now launching the first clinical trial of it in collaboration with Profectus BioSciences, a biotech that spun off from IHV recently. Known as a phase I study, the trial expects to enroll 60 people and will simply assess safety and immune responses of the “full-length single chain” vaccine. “It’s a terrible name,” says Gallo, who is not one to mince words.