Merck, Aventis Combine ‘Promising’ AIDS Vaccine Candidates for Human Clinical Trials
Drug makers Merck and Aventis have announced that they are combining their two "most promising" HIV vaccines in a human clinical trial set to begin later this year in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reports (Harris, Wall Street Journal, 3/27). The decision to "pool resources" comes after tests on rhesus monkeys found that the two vaccines administered together create a "greater immune response" against HIV than either vaccine administered alone, Reuters reports (Reuters, 3/27). Monkeys injected first with the Merck vaccine and then with the Aventis vaccine were "better prepared to fight off" the disease than those given either medicine separately or in reverse order. Neither company has been able to determine the reasons for the improved response, according to the Journal (Wall Street Journal, 3/27). The New Jersey-based drug makers said they hope to begin human testing this year, but no start date has been established yet because the FDA must first approve the companies' application, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. John Shiver, head of Merck's AIDS vaccine research team, said, "The advantage is that each group can come up with something different. The more we learn by doing collaboration, the more we collectively advance research." Chris Collins, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said, "I'm very encouraged to see two major companies willing to collaborate," adding, "The issue now, though, is to ensure that we have enough different approaches, because a major sticking point is getting from labs to humans." Both drug makers said that they will continue to pursue their own vaccines "independently," according to the Star-Ledger (Silverman, Newark Star-Ledger, 3/27)This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.