A revolutionary treatment HIV vaccine that uses genetic information from the HIV virus is set for human trials next year in the UK.

According to the British vaccines company Powder-Ject, who have developed the vaccine, results from pre-clinical studies open up the prospect of safer vaccines that can treat as well as prevent HIV.

PowderJect is developing five DNA vaccines that would be injected at supersonic speed into the skin as a powder, instead of intravenously.

The new vaccines differ from traditional treatment vaccines that use a weakened form of the virus to stimulate an immune response.

DNA vaccines instead deliver a small portion of DNA to immune cells in the skin, which act as little factories to convert the DNA into proteins which stimulate the immune response.

It is a much safer approach because you are not delivering a part of a virus, you are just delivering one genetic component of it, and we see that we get very strong immune responses, PowerJect chairman and chief executive Paul Drayson told Reuters last week.

Drayson said the DNA vaccines have so far shown proof of principle in preliminary primate studies.

In other words, these are animals which have the [HIV] infection and have been treated with the therapeutic vaccine and whose viral load within the bloodstream has been kept down, Drayson said.

That gives us the proof of principle to be able to go into the first human clinical trials and we would be expecting to do that next year.

According to PowerJect, the development of HIV DNA vaccines involves significant technical hurdles. However, if the human trials prove successful, launch of the vaccine on the market could take place toward the end of the decade.

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