Specializing in development of vaccines against diseases for which none currently exist, GeoVax has reported considerable success with its vaccine for HIV/ AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease Syndrome). This is a fairly new startup biotech company that has potential to break into the world market in the next couple of years, should the currently running human clinical studies prove successful. The company, originally GeoVax Inc., was founded in 2001 in Georgia, as a means to commercialize the research of Dr. Harriet Robinson and others at the Emory University in Atlanta, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
University Origins and Assistance
GeoVax was founded with the help of Emtech Bio, and organization formed by the Emory and Georgia Tech Universities to help university-associated startup companies obtain funding and professional advice including support in business management, intellectual property (IP) management and public relations. Emtech also promotes interactions and cooperation between its member companies and assists startups with finding affordable laboratory space, often a challenging task for new companies. The vaccine technology developed by GeoVax was licensed from Emory University, giving them rights to 21 issued or pending patents.
Human Clinical Trials
GeoVax claims to have had the most success, in large-scale non-human primate trials, of all the known companies doing similar research. The HIV vaccines are the product of over 10 years of research using monkey models. They were 96% effective in a study using primates, protecting 22 of 23 subjects for over 3.5 years after infection with HIV. Although the vaccine did not prevent infection, it kept the virus at nearly undetectable levels for months after infection, long after unvaccinated control animals had succumbed to the disease.
In 2006, GeoVax began a second round of clinical trials on HIV vaccines applied to human subjects in the USA. The first human trials concluded, with promising results, in 2004. Current trials on humans are testing different dosages and combinations of vaccines. However, the competitiveness of the GeoVax technology comes from the use of only two injections as opposed to other leading candidates which require multiple injections of a combination of drugs. The technology is based on a two-part "prime-boost" approached designed to induce the human immune system, specifically T-cells and antibodies, to attack the AIDS (HIV-1) virus. Immunity is based on the recognition of proteins expressed by the DNA “prime” injection and the booster vaccination, consisting of a recombinant pox virus, also expressing certain HIV proteins.
The clinical studies are being performed in association with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), a network sponsored by the NIH. GeoVax is also considering extending vaccine trials to AIDS endemic areas such as India and Africa.