The killer will be turned against itself, if a human trial of gene therapy for AIDS goes forward in a few months, using a vector derived from HIV-1. Biotech startup VIRxSYS Corp. of Gaithersburg, Md., is complying with requests for more information concerning its clinical protocol that were made in October by the National Institutes of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee and the Food and Drug Administration. The candidate drug's inventor, Boro Dropulic, says VIRxSYS has received about $18 million in investment funds and expects to begin Phase 1 trials in the second quarter of this year.

The treatment capitalizes on improvements made over recent years in the use of vectors derived from lentiviruses, a retroviral subfamily that includes HIV. Only lentiviral and oncoretroviral vectors can permanently integrate into the genomes of blood stem cells, which are mostly nondividing in their primitive state and are central to treating diseases...

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