South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative Signs Deal for DNA Necessary for HIV Vaccine Research
The South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which is part of a program coordinated by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, has brokered a deal with the United Kingdom's Cobra Biomanufacturing to supply the DNA that will be the "core" of a vaccine that SAAVI hopes to have ready for human testing in 2004, the Financial Times reports. Cobra is supplying the DNA at "little more than cost price." The move represents South Africa's "stepped up ... commitment" to the development of an HIV vaccine, according to the Times. Although South African President Thabo Mbeki has "shied away" from universal antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive people, he has "spoken enthusiastically" about a potential HIV vaccine. Tim Tucker, SAAVI director, said, "It is our hope that we will find this candidate HIV vaccine effective in inducing a vigorous immune response and eventually having a possible impact on the HIV pandemic." Other potential HIV and AIDS vaccines are currently being developed and tested; however, SAAVI represents the only South African HIV vaccine initiative. According to the Times, a vaccine that could prevent the spread of HIV is still "at least five years away" (Jenkins, Financial Times, 11/19).
More Money Should Be Dedicated to Vaccine Distribution, Development
In related news, "old diseases," such as tuberculosis, measles, tetanus and whooping cough, could "re-emerg[e]" if more money is not spent on vaccine development, according to the "State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization" report released today in Dakar, Senegal, by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the World Bank, Agence France-Presse reports. According to the report, although vaccines have saved "billions" of people's lives over the past century, vaccines are still not reaching those most in need, and new vaccines need to be developed for diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. In 2000, approximately 1.7 million people died of tuberculosis, which is re-emerging due in part to the rising prevalence of co-infection with HIV, especially in African nations. According to the report, $250 million in additional funds per year would allow 10 million more children to receive basic vaccines, and an additional $100 million could allow for the development of new effective vaccines (Agence France-Presse, 11/20). In addition, although an effective HIV vaccine could be developed in the next ten years, only one clinical trial for such a vaccine has been conducted in Africa, where 70% of the world's HIV-positive individuals live. According to UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank, vaccines tested on European or North American populations may not be effective or appropriate for people in Africa (UNICEF/World Bank/WHO release, 11/20). "Vaccines are among the most cost effective public health interventions. Today no child should die from a vaccine-preventable disease. We need to invest more -- and more rationally -- in vaccine coverage and research, and ensure access in all corners of the globe," Carol Bellamy, UNICEF executive director, said (Agence France-Presse, 11/20).