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Doctor Picker’s Research : The Monkeys Steal The Show In Barcelona

Dr Louis Picker appears to be getting ever closer to his goal of developing a cure for HIV when he presented conclusive evidence that several monkeys had being cured  after completing a course of vaccinations developed by him.

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dr. Louis Picker

dr. Louis Picker

At last week’s AIDS Vaccine Conference held in Barcelona Dr Louis Picker was the center of attraction for two principal reasons. Firstly because he was forced to attend the conference on crutches after breaking his hip while cycling, and secondly because he brought with him evidence that he succeeded in curing a troop of 16 Rhesus macaque monkeys that he had infected with a powerful form of AIDS thanks to an experimental vaccine that is in the final stages of development.

Dr. Picker, from the US Oregon Health and Science University, had deliberately infected the 16 monkeys  with the doors of the usually fatal Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), and later vaccinated them with his virus to test the results.

The test results, which  had already been published in a September edition of the influential scientific journal, Nature, were  presented this week at the vaccine conference. They showed of the 16 monkeys infected nine of all where observed to be capable of fighting off SIV infection and went on to remain SIV-negative for an additional three years.

Results that made for considerable excitement at the conference, with its  co-organiser Dr Christian Brander describing Picker’s research as “one of the most significant” findings of the event. “

Interview during the course of the conference Dr. Picker remarked that his research brings  the first clear signs of proof that the AIDS virus can be eliminated by immune response, while going on to point out that that the key to his success could instead rest on another virus, the Cytomeglavirus (CMV).

Picker explained that by using  a chemically weakened form of CMV as a vaccine vector, he had succeeded in introducing particles SIV into the harmless CMV as part of the vaccine. That action meant that the  CMV vaccine vector, although no longer infectious, still contained enough power to sweep through the monkeys’ bodies fast, carrying the elements of of deactivated SIV.

Consequently, the  immune systems of the monkeys who went on to survive the disease were able to  do so by their ability to recognise the SIV virus and create the strong antibodies required to fight it. Dr. Picker observed that  the seven monkeys who failed to survive the treatment  where observed to create some form of immune response,  but unfortunately not sufficiently overcome the effects of the powerful SIV views.

SIV bears a very similar characteristic to HIV, in that it is liable to spread very rapidly in the first few weeks following infection. However the  CMV element introduced into the vaccine  was not only able capable of matching the speed of the spread of SIV but also to lodge itself in the monkeys’ cells, and as a result encouraging the infected monkey’S immune systems to fight off the SIV virus.

At the Barcelona conference, Picker also announced that he has been  closely observing the  effects of a trial,  underway for 14 weeks. The trial is to test the effect of  a vaccine developed to treat Tuberculosis,  based on the blueprint of the successful SIV one, Dr.Picker announced that this trial  is also showing considerable  early promise.

During an interview Picker pointed out that his interest in CMV, has been going on for more than 20 years when he first observed that CMV “was able to elicit a really strong immune response in monkeys”.

Over the last 10 years, Dr. Picker has reportedly conducted dozens of SIV trials “on close to 100 monkeys, with results showing that around 50%  of them were found capable of fighting off SIV infections, although cautioning optimism by stating that it is liable to take several years before an HIV vaccine similar to the SIV vaccine tested in monkeys would be ready to be submitted for human trials.

For the long-term, Dr. Picker is relatively confident that if and when permission is granted to conduct trials on humans, the results would be similar if not considerably better.


Louis Picker graduated from UCLA with a bachelor of science in bacteriology in 1978 going on to take his M.D. degree at the University of California at San Francisco, which he completed in 1982.

After resident training in pathology at the Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, and postdoctoral training in immunology at the highly regarded Stanford University Medical Center, Dr. Picker was appointed Assistant Professor and later Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

In 1999 Dr. Picker joined Oregon Health and Science University and is associate department the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) as professor of pathology/molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine as well as taking up the role of head of the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology department.



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