Company works to develop ‘game changing’ HIV vaccine

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SORRENTO VALLEY, Calif. – Incredible strides in developing an HIV vaccine that would not only keep healthy people virus free, but could also help those already infected, according to a local company.

Representatives for Inovio Biomedical Corporation in Sorrento Valley said they are working to develop a “game changing” HIV vaccine.

“We have products that are being developed and tested right out of San Diego that can change the lives of millions if not hundreds of millions of people,” said Inovio CEO Dr. Joseph Kim from inside one of the company’s Sorrento Valley labs.  “These are possible very exciting game changers.”

He said with a $25 million federal grant, they’re developing a new class of synthetic DNA vaccines.

“Unlike the traditional vaccines where you actually use viruses, which can be harmful and harder to manufacture and so on we just use snippets of genetic codes or DNA,” he said.  “Nobody else is really doing that the way we are doing it.”

Specialists generate T cells which find and destroy cells infected with HIV.  Dr. Kim said recently they’ve made some significant strides especially compared to other vaccines developed by other companies over the last 15 years.

“We were able to generate the highest levels of these T cells,” he said.

For Angel Mason who has been living with HIV for ten years, the development would be life changing.

“It would be fantastic,” he said, “When I first started taking medication I was taking as many as 17 pills a day.”

Inovio is working to use the same vaccine that would keep people virus free, to treat people already infected with HIV.

“It would certainly impact me greatly medically because then I could give up the medication and I wouldn’t have to deal w the side effects of it,” Mason said.

The company is still in the first of three phases so the vaccine, if all goes well, wouldn’t be available for another five to seven years.

“We can save and impact millions of lives,” said Dr. Kim about the potential. “Those who will be infected in the future and those infected now.”

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