HIV/AIDS Vaccine Experts Call for More Collaboration in Research, Say Effective Vaccine at Least Decade Away
Scientists at an HIV/AIDS vaccine conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, this week called for more collaboration in developing an HIV/AIDS vaccine and said that such a vaccine is at least a decade away, the Financial Times reports (Williams, Financial Times, 9/3). About 800 scientists attended the three-day AIDS VACCINE '04 conference that examined preliminary data from the more than 30 HIV/AIDS vaccine candidates currently undergoing clinical trials in 19 countries, according to the AP/Long Island Newsday (Cage, AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/2). Of the HIV/AIDS vaccine candidates, five are sponsored by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, according to an IAVI release (IAVI release, 9/2). Although scientists have learned a "great deal" about the structure of HIV and how the virus attacks the immune system, the "questions that have been answered are outnumbered by those that have not," Emilio Emini, IAVI senior president and chief of vaccine development, said, according to Xinhua News Agency. Wayne Koff, IAVI senior vice president and chief of vaccine research, said, "Given what we know about HIV today, we are advancing promising candidates into development and clinical trials," adding, "At the same time, basic research questions still have to be solved" (Xinhua News Agency, 9/2). IAVI President and CEO Seth Berkley said that vaccine development could be accelerated by "new collaborative initiatives" between the private and public sectors, according to the Times. He added that funds for vaccine development need to be doubled to $1.1 billion annually, the Times reports. "Every year we wait, millions will be infected and condemned to death," Berkley said, adding, "Only a vaccine can end the epidemic." Giuseppe Pantaleo, chair of the conference, said that an effective vaccine is not likely before 2014. He urged a greater European commitment to HIV/AIDS vaccine development, most of which is now "overwhelmingly concentrated" in the United States, according to the Times (Financial Times, 9/3).
Kenya Vaccine Trial Results 'Poor'
A research team testing an IAVI-sponsored vaccine candidate in Kenya and the United Kingdom announced at the conference that clinical trials have shown that the DNA vaccine "failed to produce a robust immune response," the Wall Street Journal reports (Waldholz, Wall Street Journal, 9/3). Developed by research teams at the Medical Research Council Human Immunology Unit at University of Oxford in England and the University of Nairobi in Kenya, the vaccine being tested is the first in a vaccination series that also uses a modified vaccinia Ankara-strain vaccine. In preclinical studies, the combination of the two vaccines optimized the immune response against HIV. The DNA vaccine was designed specifically for Africa based on HIV subtype A, the most common HIV strain in Kenya and other countries in Africa. The rationale for the combination vaccine is based on studies of commercial sex workers in Nairobi who have a natural resistance to HIV infection (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/7/01). Interim analysis of clinical trial results showed that the vaccine candidate generated a potentially protective immune response in only 20% of test subjects, according to the Journal. Analysis of the study was expected to continue, but the researchers said that the vaccine's immune response was "poor," the Journal reports. IAVI said that the study will not continue "unless the data change dramatically," according to the Journal. The researchers said that because the immune response was poor, human trials to test whether the vaccine protects some people from HIV infection will not be conducted. "The response fell short of what we had expected and what had been seen in animal studies," Emini said (Wall Street Journal, 9/3).