d in Thailand in 2003, Koff said.
Tests on the Merck vaccine, delivered to human volunteers using snippets of HIV DNA embedded in a modified common cold virus, could produce final data by 2007, putting it at the top of the pipeline, he said.
A second top candidate comes from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), HVTN 204, and contains not only a wider variety of DNA from different parts of the virus but also snippets from the three leading global strains of HIV - the first promising candidate to offer such global potential.
It is being tested on 500 volunteers in North and South America, Africa and the Caribbean, vaccine project director Gary Nabel said.
"Realistically, if we have a licensed vaccine in less than 10 years, it would be pretty miraculous," Nabel told DPA.
In addition, a modified version of the Vaxgen trials continues on 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, who are receiving an added T-cell vaccine booster.
A lot depends on money. Global research gets about $800 million a year, an increase over funding levels three years ago but still short of the $1.1 billion needed, IAVI says.
To attract private firms like Merck to the unprofitable field, the US and other governments have provided funds - with the requirement that all results are shared.
For the vast majority of people with HIV, however, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is still a death sentence.
Only about 10 percent of those infected are aware of it, the Bill Clinton Foundation says, and treatment has fallen far short of the World Health Organization's goal of reaching three million HIV-positive people with life-prolonging medications by 2005.
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