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HIV Vaccine Research Efforts Should Be Scaled Up

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Although results of HIV vaccine research have been "unrelentingly negative" in recent years, scientists still should increase efforts to develop a vaccine, HIV/AIDS experts said Monday during a workshop at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Picard, Globe and Mail, 8/5).

According to AFP/Google.com, of the 50 HIV vaccine candidates that have been tested in humans, only two reached Phase III trials, and both of those were found to be ineffective. About 30 vaccine candidates currently are in trials, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 8/4).

At the workshop, Tadataka Yamada, executive director of the global health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that although HIV vaccine development is difficult, its benefits could be tremendous. "The challenges are huge, but I have no doubt that we will live in a world without HIV some day," Yamada said, adding that vaccine researchers need to be "unafraid to fail" (Globe and Mail, 8/5).

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Yamada added that funding and collaboration for vaccine research need to be increased to avoid wasted or duplicated efforts. "We need big investments for the future ... not only in the basic science of HIV prevention, but also in clinical trials for an HIV vaccine," Yamada said. Yamada also said researchers should focus on basic research to fill fundamental gaps in knowledge about how HIV attacks the immune system (AFP/Google.com, 8/4).

Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, added that researchers' "objective should be to stop" HIV and that the "best way to do so is with a vaccine." Bernstein said a major challenge in vaccine research is unrealistic expectations from the public. "We need to get away from this home-run mentality to research," he said.

Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said although there are many biological and social challenges in developing an HIV vaccine, a vaccine is "possible." He added that scientists, corporations and governments should redouble their commitments to vaccine research rather than be discouraged by recent setbacks in HIV vaccine research (Globe and Mail, 8/5). The researchers added that although they are optimistic, a potential breakthrough in vaccine development is several years away (AFP/Google.com, 8/4).

The researchers at the workshop also discussed the development of microbicides. Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of the International Partnership for Microbicides, said she is still optimistic about the research despite the "series of barriers" involved (Globe and Mail, 8/5). According to AFP/Google.com, there have been nine completed or halted trials of microbicide candidates, one of which found an increased risk of HIV transmission. Five microbicide candidates are in the early stages of trials, AFP/Google.com reports (AFP/Google.com, 8/4).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.