Seven European Countries Call for Increased Research Coordination in HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development
Health ministers from seven European countries on Tuesday during a meeting in Paris called for increased research coordination in the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine but "sidestepped" committing additional funds to the effort, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Health ministers or their representatives from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden and a representative from the European Commission said that the development of an effective vaccine is an "absolute necessity ... (and) integral part of a broad strategy of global prevention." They also emphasized the need for "greater collaboration" among scientists working on vaccine development, saying that researchers should "pool their results in order to maxim[ize] progress," according to AFP/Yahoo! News.
Despite the European ministers' support for HIV/AIDS vaccine research, the officials did not pledge any additional funds to vaccine development efforts, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/19). Delegates at the AIDS Vaccine '04 conference in August called for increased financial and political commitment to develop an effective HIV/AIDS vaccine, saying that $12 billion to $18 billion is needed over the next decade for research and clinical trials (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/31). Current spending on HIV/AIDS vaccine development is approximately $650 million annually, which is less than 1% of total spending on all HIV/AIDS product development, according to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/19). The European Commission has contributed $125 million over the past four years to HIV/AIDS research, and member countries hope to increase spending to $1.25 billion over the next decade, the Financial Times reports (Arnold, Financial Times, 10/20). According to E.C. representative Octavi Quintana Trias, the European Union is "ready to make an effort" to increase funding, but E.U. member countries also must pledge additional contributions, according to AFP/Yahoo! News.
French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy hosted Tuesday's meeting in order to "forg[e] a single European view" on the issue of HIV/AIDS vaccine development in advance of a Group of Eight meeting on Thursday in Washington, D.C., AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The G8 meeting is scheduled to focus on the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, which aims to speed development of a vaccine and increase research collaboration (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/19). G8 leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia in June at a summit in Sea Island, Ga., announced the formation of the enterprise, which 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. A coordinating center for the initiative will be established in the United States using a proposed $15 million in initial funding from President Bush (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/14).
More European Influence
During Thursday's G8 meeting, France is expected to "lead a push" for an increased European influence in vaccine efforts, which currently are led by the United States, the Times reports. Douste-Blazy and French Research Minister Francois D'Aubert on Tuesday in an opinion piece in the French newspaper Le Figaro expressed concern that Europe lags behind the United States in HIV/AIDS research, the Times reports. "While more than a third of the vaccine candidates currently being developed globally have come from European research, 90% of the clinical tests are being carried out in the U.S.," they wrote, adding, "Given the strength of its commitment to fighting AIDS and its research capability, France should be at the forefront of such an initiative." However, British officials are concerned that a French initiative to gain more influence over vaccine development could "trigger a damaging stand-off" with the United States, according to the Times. Therefore, British officials plan to act as mediators between France and the United States and propose that a joint research initiative include more scientists from developing countries such as India and South Africa. "We need the best brains in the world working together on this, so we need to get European scientists working with scientists from the U.S. as well as from developing countries," British Junior Minister for International Development Gareth Thomas said (Financial Times, 10/20).