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MARCH 30, 2004 (OTTAWA) - The Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics (CANVAC) today announced the start of a therapeutic HIV vaccine trial. This is the first clinical trial designed and driven by academic Canadian researchers. Representatives from CANVAC were joined by the Honourable Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec for this announcement.

HIV-infected patients are currently treated using highly active drug combinations. These drug cocktails have major side effects. Therapeutic vaccination against HIV is being studied to reduce drug dependence, thus gaining a reprieve from the important side effects of this type of treatment.

The clinical trial will start early in April and will run over 18 months. Sixty patients from Ottawa and Montreal, who have been on effective therapy and have had no detectable HIV in their blood for at least two years, will be enrolled. The patients will be recruited from three university hospital centres: The Ottawa Hospital, the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

"Canadian organizations are taking the lead in this clinical trial, thanks to Canada's first class university research centres, smart regulatory frameworks, and the innovative funding mechanisms of its Networks of Centres of Excellence. All these factors come into play to poise Canada at the forefront of innovation worldwide." said the Honourable Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

"Health research is the only long-term solution in the fight against HIV/AIDS, both in Canada and internationally," said the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Health, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Official Languages. "I am proud that, thanks to Government of Canada support, Canadian scientists are at the forefront of significant advances in the fight against this disease."

"This project could not have happened without a strong collaboration between various Canadian researchers and the establishment of partnerships with the private sector, all of which were essential to both designing the clinical trial and securing financial support for it." declared Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, CANVAC's Scientific Director and Program Leader. He added that:

"CANVAC's role is to analyse blood samples collected during the trial, using state-of-the-art technologies, to determine the effect of the vaccinations on the patients' immune response against HIV." Dr. Rafick-Pierre Sékaly is a full professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Université de Montréal as well as associate director of Research, Development and Strategic Planning at the CHUM Research Centre.

This project is the result of the hard work of a team of researchers lead by Dr. Jonathan Angel from the Ottawa Hospital. This is the first clinical trial in this field in Canada to be supported by public organizations such as the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian HIV Trials Network and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network. In addition, two independent companies, Aventis Pasteur, which is the vaccines business of Aventis, SA, and The Immune Response Corporation, have agreed to provide the vaccines and to collaborate on this trial.

"An effective therapeutic vaccine will help the person's immune system control their HIV infection, potentially without the use of medications, and provide important insights into the development of an effective preventative vaccine." concluded Dr. Jonathan Angel, principal investigator for this trial. Dr. Angel is a physician specializing in infectious diseases, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Ottawa, and Scientist, Molecular Medicine, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

About CANVAC (
As a Network of Centres of Excellence, CANVAC, the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, is a unique network of 79 world-renown Canadian scientists specializing in the fields of immunology, virology, and molecular biology, who are affiliated with 25 Canadian universities and research institutes. CANVAC scientists, in collaboration with 22 corporate partners, as well as interested patient and consumer groups, are working toward the development of safe and effective vaccines to protect and treat Canadians and people around the world from cancer and life-threatening viral infections, such as those caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Université de Montréal hosts CANVAC.

About the Networks of Centres of Excellence (
Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCEs) are unique partnerships among universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organizations aimed at turning Canadian research and entrepreneurial talent into economic and social benefits for all Canadians. An integral part of the federal government's Innovation Strategy, these nation-wide, multidisciplinary and multisectorial research partnerships connect excellent research with industrial know-how and strategic investment.

The NCE Program is a federal initiative administered jointly through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), in partnership with Industry Canada.

Further information:

Guylaine Ouellet, Director, Communications, CANVAC (514) 602-1455

Daniel Grenier, Director, Communications, Industry Canada (613) 995-9001

Partner companies and organizations

About Aventis (
Aventis is dedicated to treating and preventing disease by discovering and developing innovative prescription drugs and human vaccines. In 2003, Aventis generated sales of € 16.79 billion, invested € 2.86 billion in research and development and employed approximately 69,000 people in its core business. Aventis corporate headquarters are in Strasbourg, France. For more information, please visit:

Aventis Pasteur, the vaccines business of Aventis, produced 1.4 billion doses of vaccine in 2003, making it possible to protect 500 million people across the globe, which is about 1.4 million per day. The company offers the broadest range of vaccines, providing protection against 20 bacterial and viral diseases.

About the Immune Response Corporation (
The Immune Response Corporation (Nasdaq:IMNR) is an American company co-founded by Dr. Jonas Salk, discoverer of the polio vaccine, as a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Company's lead product candidate, REMUNE®, is an immune-based therapy (IBT) designed to induce a specific immune response in individuals already infected by HIV and boost the body's natural defence mechanisms in order to slow HIV disease progression.

About the Canadian HIV Trials Network (
The Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN) is a partnership of scientific investigators, industry, care-givers and people living with HIV committed to developing treatments, vaccines and a cure for HIV disease and AIDS, through the conduct of scientifically sound and ethical clinical trials. Established in 1990, the Network has become a cornerstone of the Canadian Strategy on HIV/AIDS and is now funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). As of last year, the CTN had reviewed 176 trial protocols and implemented 77. More than 8,000 HIV-positive Canadians participated in these trials. In 2003, after a formal review, the CIHR awarded the Network an excellent rating of 4.4 out of 5.

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is the Government of Canada's premier agency for health research. Its objective is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system.

About the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (
The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) is an independently incorporated, not-for-profit organization funded by the AIDS Bureau, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The OHTN acts as a collaborative network of people living with HIV/AIDS, health care providers, consumers, researchers, community-based organizations and government, with a mandate to provide leadership and to advance policy relating to the optimal treatment and care of people living with HIV in Ontario.

About the Ottawa Hospital (
The Ottawa Hospital is a multi-campus academic health sciences centre. With over 1000 beds, 10,000 staff plus 1,200 physicians, and an annual operating budget of approximately $600 million, it is one of the largest healthcare organizations in Canada. In collaboration with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Ottawa, the Hospital is dedicated to excellence in patient care, to the education of future healthcare professionals, and to research resulting in bench-to-bedside discoveries. The Ottawa Hospital partners with various organizations to provide comprehensive, high quality, patient-focused healthcare services, in English and French, to over 1.5 million residents of eastern Ontario, and specialized and complex services for residents of northeastern Ontario.

About Université de Montréal (
Founded in 1878, the Université de Montréal has 13 faculties and, along with its two affiliated Schools, HEC Montréal and l'École Polytechnique, is Québec's leading higher education establishment, second in Canada, and among the best in North America. Its faculty includes 2,300 professors and researchers, and it has a student population of close to 55,000. It offers more than 550 undergraduate and graduate programs and awards some 3,000 Master's and PhD degrees each year. The Université de Montréal is firmly committed to developing and transferring new knowledge.

About the CHUM
CHUM is a university hospital centre that provides specialized and highly specialized services to a regional and supraregional clientele. CHUM also offers general and specialized hospital services for its immediate service area. These services, which contribute to teaching and research and to technology and health-intervention evaluation, are provided on an integrated network basis. CHUM also contributes to the ongoing promotion of health through its front-line services. More than 300 researchers working in diverse fields to improve the well being of the population at large use the CHUM Research Centre.

CHUM was formed in 1996 by merging three Montréal hospitals: Hôtel-Dieu, Notre-Dame and Saint-Luc. CHUM's approximately 10,000 employees, 1,000 doctors and 800 volunteers receive more than half a million patients every year.

About McGill University Health Centre (
The MUHC is one of North America's most comprehensive academic health centres. It is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with McGill University - the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria and Montreal Neurological Hospitals and the Montreal Chest Institute. The MUHC, whose clinical missions are paediatrics, women's health, neurosciences, mental health, medicine and surgery sees over 1 million patients each year.

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