Vaccine Research Presents ‘Disappointments’ But Not ‘Failures,’ IAVI Head Writes
The news that an experimental AIDS vaccine successfully prevented HIV infection in seven monkeys but did not prevent infection in an eigth monkey is "disappointing" but "by no means represents failure for the [AIDS vaccine] field," Dr. Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, writes in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal (Berkley, Wall Street Journal, 1/23). In the monkey in which the vaccine failed, the virus made a single gene mutation that changed the shape of the epitope, making it unrecognizable to the T cells (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/17). Berkley states that vaccine research "is really just getting started" and that AIDS vaccine efforts are "unlikely to be a home run on the first few tries." HIV is "a crafty virus," making it difficult to create a vaccine to defeat it, he states. There are "many exciting vaccine designs" lined up and waiting for testing, he writes, and there "is no sure recipe for a winning [vaccine], other than to sort systematically through the many possibilities, and ultimately test the most promising in humans." Berkley states that the field of AIDS vaccine research has only recently gained enough financial and political strength, and the commitment to such experiments must be "accelerated and sustained" over the next decade. He concludes that vaccine research has proven that "by trying novel ideas, we can overcome the deadliest of infectious diseases," adding, "If one idea proves unsuccessful, we simply must try again" (Wall Street Journal, 1/23).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.