Researchers at AIDS Vaccine Conference Say Global Vaccine Trial Network Taking Shape; Effective Vaccine Still Years Away
Researchers at the AIDS Vaccine 2003 conference in New York on Thursday "expressed hope" that an HIV vaccine will be developed now that a global vaccine trials network has taken shape, but they added that an effective vaccine is still far in the future, Reuters reports (Fox, Reuters, 9/18). About 1,000 researchers from 50 countries attended the four-day conference to deliver the results of 500 studies on preventive and therapeutic experimental HIV vaccines, according to Agence France-Presse. Research on a preventive vaccine that would enable antibodies to neutralize HIV is at an "early stage," however "hopes are higher" for a therapeutic vaccine that would elicit a killer T cell response that would help slow HIV's progress, according to Norman Letvin of Harvard Medical School (Agence France-Presse, 9/18). For experimental vaccines, scientists are combining HIV genetic material with smallpox vaccines, polio vaccines and animal viruses, according to Reuters. The pace of vaccine research is accelerating after the February announcement that VaxGen's AIDSVAX vaccine failed to protect people from HIV in a Phase III trial. Dr. Margaret Johnston of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that government researchers, private companies and not-for-profit vaccine advocacy groups have moved forward with the next generation of vaccine candidates, according to Reuters. "The pipeline has expanded considerably based on what it was five years ago," Johnston said. Dr. Jose Esparza of the World Health Organization said that vaccine trials need to take place in many locations because HIV has demonstrated the ability to mutate into various strains. "Development of an AIDS vaccine will require intense international cooperation," Esparza said (Reuters, 9/18). Twenty-four different vaccines are currently being tested in 27 clinical trials throughout the world, according to the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, with "scores" more being tested in labs and animals, according to Reuters.
Vaccine Research Network
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIAID, at the conference on Friday called for the establishment of an international network to share information about AIDS vaccine development, Reuters reports. The network, which Fauci called the Partnership for AIDS Vaccine Evaluation, would include governments, pharmaceutical companies and not-for-profit groups. Fauci said that the partnership would not require a new structure but a "broad strategic plan so that when other people in other countries [and] industry get involved we do it in a way that is organized, rather than multiple groups going about their independent ways." Fauci added that NIAID could help organize the project (Fox, Reuters, 9/19).