USF participates in HIV study

USF’s College of Medicine is participating in a study that the entire medical community is watching.

The university, along with Tampa General Hospital, is participating in a study of a vaccine for the HIV virus. The study, sponsored by Merck Pharmaceuticals, will test the vaccine on healthy, uninfected volunteers.

Dr. Jeffrey Nadler, a professor of medicine at USF, is the principal investigator for the HIV vaccine trial in Tampa. Dr. Nadler explained why USF and Tampa General Hospital were selected to be a part of the trial and what benefits were obtained from conducting it with the university.

“Having it at a university provides the study with brainpower. Many private offices are not specifically trained in certain areas. The University of South Florida is recognized for its excellence in research,” said Nadler. “Tampa General Hospital has a special clinical laboratory, called the Esoteric Testing Laboratory that is one of the best in the country.”

Nadler said the vaccine has already been tested on monkeys and has shown a higher response rate within the animals than previous vaccines.

“This vaccine has shown up to a 90-percent response rate in the animals. Previous studies never received anything better than a 20-30-percent response,” said Nadler.

One of the hopes for the vaccine is to lower the cost of potent antiviral drugs, and in doing so, help in the worldwide fight against AIDS.

“Having an inexpensive vaccine is important,” said Nadler. “It would make it easier for doctors to prescribe it to people. However the actual cost of the drug is currently unknown. If it works, pharmaceutical companies could make the process of producing it more efficient, thus lowering the cost.”

All participants in the program are volunteers, each with full knowledge of the risks involved with participating in the study.

“We have already screened three potential volunteers. None are to the point yet of receiving the vaccine,” said Nadler. “But more volunteers are needed. Most volunteers are typically people who have had a friend or family member infected with, or die from, AIDS. They understand how important this study is.”

Nadler said the study is seeking more volunteers, but he said it is important they understand the full implications of participation.

“We need persons from the age of 18-50 who are HIV, and hepatitis A and B negative,” he said. “They need to be in general good health and understand the risk of being involved in a study like this.”

This study is also being conducted nationwide in 15 other locations.

For more information, or to volunteer, call Tampa General’s Research Center at (813) 844-7000.