Merck's HIV Vaccine Trial Should Not 'Slow Progress' Toward Future Vaccine Development

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HIV Vaccine Trial

Although many people "felt robbed" by the announcement last week that Merck'strial of an experimental HIV vaccine had been halted, it would be"worse [to] allow the news to slow progress" toward development offuture HIV vaccines, Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, writes in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece (Berkley, Los Angeles Times, 9/27).

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Merckon Friday announced that it had ended a large-scale clinical trial ofits experimental HIV vaccine after the drug failed to prevent HIVinfection in participants or prove effective in delaying theprogression of the virus to AIDS. The trial was stopped by the Data andSafety Monitoring Board, an independent overseer. Experts hadconsidered the experimental vaccine one of the most promising to betested on people so far (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/24).

The"precise lessons" of Merck's results will "take time to decipher," butthe trial is "far from the end of the line" in HIV vaccine development,Berkley writes. According to Berkley, about 30 vaccine candidates arebeing tested, and scientists "already are devising alternativeapproaches," such as stimulating antibodies in the immune system ratherthan T-cells, "which was the basis of Merck's candidate and almost allthe others."

HIV/AIDS vaccine research "needs fresh, boldapproaches, including ideas from other fields," Berkley writes, addingthat "[s]ecuring funding for this vital but long-term work is achallenge." When Congress considers "spending priorities" in reathorizing the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,it "should guarantee that AIDS vaccine work is also well-funded,"Berkley writes, concluding, "If the U.S. doesn't refill the chest withhope, who will?" (Los Angeles Times, 9/27).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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