Atlanta, GA - September 8, 2010- Chuck Panozzo has lived a rock star's life. With his brother John he founded the band Styx. He played bass on some of their top hits, from "Mr. Roboto" to "Come Sail Away," and he still tours regularly. But these days Mr. Panozzo, now 61, openly gay and HIV positive, has a new goal: to raise awareness about HIV and the quest to find an HIV/AIDS vaccine.
Panozzo has joined forces with Atlanta-based biotech firm GeoVax Labs as a spokesperson for the company's HIV/AIDS vaccines, currently in clinical trials. The partnership crystallized after Panozzo met GeoVax's lead scientist, Dr. Harriet Robinson, at an AIDS awareness campaign event in Florida.
Panozzo commented, "I was sincerely touched by [Robinson's] success and determination in her pursuit to bring an end to the devastating AIDS pandemic. Having been diagnosed HIV positive in 1991, and having lost many relatives and friends to HIV/AIDS over the years, I found Dr. Robinson's quest for a vaccine hitting very close to home.
"The hope [is for] a vaccine," he continued, "that can be taken once a year at much less cost than current treatments allow, and one that can be made readily available to patients around the world. It could be the beginning of the end of HIV as we know it today. I don't want to give people false hope, but there are grounds for hope."
GeoVax's preventative HIV vaccine candidate has completed Phase 1 clinical trials in humans, and is currently in a Phase 2a clinical trial being conducted and funded by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Based on current enrollment rates, the company expects this trial to be completed during 2011.
Meanwhile, the company's therapeutic vaccine candidate has been allowed by the FDA to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial. The clinical trial site is now going through the final meetings for initiating the enrollment of volunteers who meet the trial's criteria: recently HIV-infected individuals who started drug treatment during their first year of infection.
"A lot of people think HIV is a death sentence," says Panozzo. "Not anymore. I expect something big will happen in the next 10 years to revolutionize this field."
For more information about GeoVax's HIV/AIDS vaccines, please visit www.geovax.com.
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