Western takes on epidemic
By Becky Somerville
Western's dean of science, Yong Kang, has applied for a patent to protect intellectual property surrounding a method to produce a potential AIDS vaccine.
Kang said himself and his team of scientific researchers have isolated the gene which is responsible for apoptosis the programmed killing of a cell.
Using this discovery, Kang said, the team determined they could produce a virus which does not cause disease. This genetically-altered virus is the method which Kang hopes will ultimately lead to the production of the vaccine.
By producing the genetically-mutated virus in large quantities, the potential vaccine would be tested on animals to determine whether or not it is toxic and if it could fight off the virus, Kang said.
The next phase would be to perform clinical tests on humans which would establish the safety of the vaccine, human response to it and whether the vaccine would effectively protect against natural infection, he added.
"Hopefully we can get into phase one within a year and a half," he said.
Western's office of research services is assisting in the application for the patent and Kang is receiving funding for his research from Health Canada and the Medical Research Council.
Paul Fox, acting director of industry liaison within Research Western, referred to Kang as a world-wide researcher and said he was very pleased to be assisting him with the patent application.
"It's almost exponential, the value this would have on the whole world," Fox said, adding a successful vaccine would also bring significant publicity and revenue to Western.
Kang said there have been roughly 40 different attempts by other scientists to produce a vaccine but all have proved to be ineffective. He hopes his different method of approach will be successful, he added.
"If I can control this world epidemic of AIDS that would be the greatest accomplishment as a scientist," Kang said.
Rodney Kort, acting manager of national programs at the Canadian AIDS Society, said because of the nature of the disease, vaccine development has been very difficult.
"Any scientific advance in the area of vaccine development is a positive sign," he said. "It would have a large global impact on the epidemic if a cheap vaccine was found."
Director of the HIV care program at St. Joseph's Hospital, Janet Gilmour, said Kang's research was promising and the care program would participate if he developed a vaccine.
"We're all anxiously waiting to see the results of it," Gilmour said. "Any progress or advancements in treating this disease would be a very good thing."
Fox added there are over 32 million people affected by AIDS worldwide. "This would help people who have little or no chance of long-term survival," he said.