Effective AIDS Vaccine Years Away, Process Might Require Doubling of Funds, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Report Says
With the introduction of an effective AIDS vaccine years away, the effort needs almost a doubling of funds, and researchers might have to "go back to the drawing board" if the current approach fails, according to a report by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Reuters/Yahoo! News reports. In its biennial report on the state of research, presented Monday at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, IAVI called for vaccine development funding of $1.3 billion annually, according to Reuters/Yahoo! News (Hirschler, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 7/12). IAVI President and CEO Seth Berkley said that annual spending on vaccine research is about $650 million -- less than 1% of the total spending on all HIV/AIDS product development, according to Agence France-Presse. HIV treatment options are "far more profitable" for pharmaceutical companies than vaccines to prevent the disease, Agence France-Presse reports. Berkley said that the "world is inching toward a vaccine, when we should be making strides," adding, "The single biggest obstacle is that vaccine development is not a top scientific, political and economic priority. Only a vaccine can end the epidemic."
More than 30 vaccines are in clinical trials, compared with "just a handful two years ago," according to the IAVI report, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/12). However, of those 30 vaccine candidates in 19 countries, only one has reached the final testing phase, according to the IAVI report. Many researchers are skeptical about that vaccine, which combines Aventis' Alvac with Aidsvax by VaxGen. Merck is expected to conduct a "proof of concept" trial on its vaccine by the end of the year. According to Wayne Koff, head of clinical research at IAVI, researchers will not find out if either of those vaccines is effective until late 2007 or 2008. Koff added that although the vaccine pipeline has been "widened," there are no vaccines in development that focus on stimulating antibodies to fight HIV. Vaccines in development instead focus on boosting the number of cytotoxic T lymphocytes, or T-cells (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 7/12). IAVI noted that researchers have made the first steps toward identifying the proper antibodies to fight HIV.
Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise
Berkeley "praise[d]" Group of Eight leaders for the formation of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise last month, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 7/12). G8 leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia at a summit last month in Sea Island, Ga., announced the initiative's formation, which seeks to speed the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine and streamline research and development efforts. The plan calls for the establishment of HIV vaccine development centers throughout the world, the expansion of manufacturing capabilities, the creation of standardized measurement systems, the construction of clinics for trials and the creation of rules allowing regulatory authorities in different countries to recognize the results of foreign clinical trials. In addition, the initiative will encourage scientists from developing nations to play a larger role in the search for a vaccine (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14). Berkley said, "But this is the fifth time the G8 has spoken out on AIDS vaccines," adding, "We have to make sure that it's followed up with resources and leadership" (Agence France-Presse, 7/12).
CNN's "Live Today" on Monday reported live from the conference on progress in HIV/AIDS vaccine development. The segment includes comments from three HIV/AIDS researchers (Gupta, "Live Today," CNN, 7/12). The complete transcript of the segment will be available online. A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.