In July 1989, the Government of Canada requested proposals for an AIDS clinical trials infrastructure. A Vancouver-based coalition of researchers responded, proposing a model of a decentralized network, built on a foundation of five regions and numerous satellite centres.
They envisioned a head office to handle the administration and house a data management centre of the highest technical capacity. The coalition developed standing committees to oversee this infrastructure and the trials it generates.
The team was confident that with Canada’s geographically diverse clinics and hospitals effectively linked, the country would be seen as an ideal place to conduct pivotal trials in HIV/AIDS.
In July 1990, the Canadian government formally announced its support for the CTN model. And, on January 23, 1991, the Network’s National Centre officially opened its doors and announced the launch of the first CTN trials.
Advancing HIV Care
Since 1990, investigators at the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network have made significant contributions to the advance of HIV/AIDS treatments:
- MAC Trial This 1993-94 study, led by Dr. Stephen Shafran of Edmonton, recruited swiftly at sites across Canada and contributed to advances in the treatment of Mycobacterium avium complex, a then common and deadly opportunistic infection associated with AIDS.
- HAART Trials led by Dr. Julio Montaner of Vancouver and other Network investigators were among the first to demonstrate the efficacy of protease inhibitors in combination with two or three other anti-HIV drugs, ushering in the age of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and contributing to a steep decline in AIDS death rates in developed countries in the mid 1990s.
- Vaccines In March 2004, Dr. Jonathan Angel of Ottawa announced the launch of a pilot study of a promising therapeutic HIV vaccine, one of a host of projects that are being developed in collaboration with the Canadian Network for Vaccines and Immunotherapies Research (CANVAC), a federally funded Network of Excellence.