Scientific Panel Discuss Challenges, Future Prospects for Developing HIV/AIDS Vaccine
A scientific panel on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., discussed the challenges, accomplishments and goals of the worldwide effort to develop an HIV/AIDS vaccine, the Inter Press Service reports. The panel was sponsored by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and focused on how to establish the vaccine manufacturing and distribution networks that will be necessary for the long-term fight against the disease. IAVI President and CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said that although there have been breakthroughs in global HIV/AIDS funding in 2003, with $22 billion being committed to battling the disease worldwide, there has not been "enough attention focused on a vaccine," adding, "We are never going to end the AIDS epidemic without a vaccine." Berkley said that IAVI's goal is to "move forward as soon as possible and build a global constituency" to develop a vaccine. Researchers have made a "tremendous amount of progress" toward developing a vaccine over the last five to seven years, with several vaccine candidates currently in different stages of clinical trials.
Current Efforts, Future Challenges
Dr. Chrispin Kambili, IAVI's regional medical officer for East Africa, said that a vaccine trial currently underway in Africa will involve more than 20,000 participants in several nations. He added that vaccine pilot programs in Africa have received "overwhelming success and support" mainly because local communities have embraced the efforts and participants feel a sense of ownership and responsibility, according to Inter Press Service. One challenge to vaccine development in Africa is recruiting female participants for clinical trials, Kambili said. Women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection and make up the population with the highest incidence rates worldwide. Dr. Dennis Burton of the California-based Scripps Research Institute described a possible HIV/AIDS vaccine based on neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, particular antibodies that are effective against a wide variety of viruses. Burton said that scientists are currently working to "isolate, reproduce, store, and make available" monoclonal antibodies for HIV/AIDS vaccine research, according to the Inter Press Service. Berkley said that once an HIV/AIDS vaccine is developed, $300 million to $350 million would have to be invested in building new facilities to produce 100 million doses of the vaccine (Kagan, Inter Press Service, 10/9).