Scientist Accuses Government Agencies of Competing, Conducting Duplicative AIDS Vaccine Research
The "rivalry" between the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense -- which are each planning to test separate AIDS vaccine candidates -- has led them to develop very similar vaccines, amounting to a "massive waste of money and other resources," the "prominent" AIDS researcher John Moore writes in a Nature commentary. The Wall Street Journal reports that NIH and DOD are planning human trials of vaccines that will combine a recombinant canarypox virus with a protein. Moore, who works at Cornell University's Weill Medical College, says that although there are "some differences" between the NIH vaccine and the DOD vaccine, the two candidates are "duplicative ... for all practical purposes." Moore believes that the two vaccine candidates are similar because the agencies view each other "as rivals, not collaborators." He writes, "It has seemed as if each agency has felt compelled to 'shadow' the other, to insure against the embarrassing outcome of a working vaccine candidate emerging that was sponsored by the other agency." Edmund Tramont, director of the AIDS division at NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "belittled" Moore's commentary, stating that the agencies are "testing two different vaccines in two different populations" and that the separate trials have different designs, endpoints and objectives. "That's good science," Tramont added. But the Journal reports that Moore's "standing in the AIDS research community" will lend his opinion "considerable weight." The NIH trial, which may begin late this year, will involve 11,080 subjects in the United States, the Caribbean and South America and will cost between $60 million and $80 million. The DOD trial, which is slated to start this summer, will involve 15,800 subjects in Thailand and will cost between $35 million and $40 million (Adams, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.