Three Top VaxGen Officials Leaving Company To Start Not-for-Profit AIDS Vaccine Foundation
Brisbane, Calif.-based biotechnology company VaxGen on Tuesday announced that three upper-level officials are leaving the company to form a not-for-profit AIDS vaccine foundation, Reuters reports. The company said that President Donald Francis and Senior Vice President for Research and Development Phillip Berman will leave the company on Feb. 1. According to a company statement, Francis and Berman are also stepping down from the VaxGen's board of directors, but both will continue to work with the company as consultants. Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Carter Lee is also stepping down, but he will remain with the company to oversee VaxGen's 2003 financial statements, according to Reuters (Reuters, 1/20). The news comes after the company failed to "push through" FDA approval of its AIDS vaccine, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 1/21). VaxGen in November announced that late-stage clinical trials of its AIDS vaccine AIDSVAX failed because the vaccine did not affect HIV infection rates among participants. The trial, the first HIV vaccine efficacy trial ever held in a developing nation, involved nearly 2,500 injection drug users in Thailand. VaxGen said that the vaccine failed to meet its primary endpoint of preventing HIV infection and also failed to meet the secondary endpoint of slowing disease progression among participants who received the vaccine but later became HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/13/03). Francis said, "Developing an effective HIV vaccine is an expensive and lengthy process fraught with immense scientific challenges. But given our experience with HIV and the lessons we have learned during the many years we have spent in vaccine development, [Berman, Lee] and I believe that we can make an important contribution to the field." He added that the new foundation's goal will be to focus on producing HIV vaccine candidates for developing countries, "where the disease takes a disproportionate toll on human life" (Reuters, 1/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.