HIV Vaccine Not Expected Until At Least 2009, IAVI Says
Due to numerous scientific obstacles and few drug possibilities, the earliest date that an HIV vaccine could be developed and licensed is 2009, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative President Seth Berkley said yesterday, Reuters reports. The estimate is "based on current timetables," Berkley said, referring to the time it takes for drugs to move through testing phases. One or two potential vaccines could begin clinical trials in 2004 or 2005, with the trials lasting four or five years, Berkley said. What had been considered the "best hope" for a vaccine, AIDSVAX, was found in February to be ineffective at preventing HIV transmission, according to Reuters (Miles, Reuters, 6/18). VaxGen, the maker of AIDSVAX, in late February announced that the vaccine reduced the rate of new HIV infections by 3.8% among people who received the vaccine, compared with clinical trial participants who received a placebo injection, but said that the vaccine was effective among African Americans, Asians and other non-white, non-Hispanic volunteers. However, further analysis of the results released in April yielded no stronger proof of the conclusions regarding minority study subjects (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/1). Scientists have been "stumped" by HIV and how the virus varies from region to region, according to Reuters. In addition, pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to conduct vaccine research, as they see little potential for profit because the largest market for an HIV vaccine is in the developing world, Reuters reports. However, drug companies Merck and Aventis are working together on one of about six products IAIV condsiders to be the most promising for a vaccine, Wayne Koff, IAVI senior vice president for research and development, said. Koff added that the next step to finding a vaccine is to "find something that works a little bit so the rest of the field can build on it" (Reuters, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.