Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Issues Guidelines To Accelerate Vaccine Development
The Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise coordinating committee in the February issue of PLoS Medicine issued a "roadmap" to accelerate the development of an effective HIV vaccine through "new collaboration, resources and strategic focus," Reuters Health reports (Gale, Reuters Health, 1/18). The enterprise -- which was formed in June 2004 by leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations at a summit on Sea Island, Ga. -- is an alliance of independent organizations that support HIV vaccine research (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/20/04). The enterprise's coordinating committee said that "[h]arnessing new scientific opportunities for HIV vaccine development will require an effort of a magnitude, intensity and design without precedent in biomedical research." Coordinating committee member Dr. Jose Esparza of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that in order for a vaccine to become a "reality in the foreseeable future," researchers "need a new game plan that brings more corroboration, a better exchange of information and a more systematic approach to explore different vaccines." Therefore, the enterprise aims to develop a "common set of criteria" to determine which vaccine candidates should be tested and which ones should progress to larger trials, Esparza said, adding "The field today is inundated with 'me-too' products, similar candidate vaccines and not enough innovation." The enterprise also intends to develop a system of "core" laboratories to serve as references to "satellite labs"; a "global quality assurance" system that will include all participating laboratories; and a "source of common lab materials," Reuters Health reports. In order to achieve these goals, current spending on HIV vaccine research and development will need to be doubled to $1.2 billion per year, according to the enterprise's coordinating committee.
In a related PLoS opinion piece, Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, writes that the guidelines are an "excellent start to a continuing dialogue of utmost importance" (Reuters Health, 1/18). However, the editors of PLoS in an editorial write that although the enterprise's guidelines should be "hailed as a crucially important outline for vaccine development," the "goodwill surrounding it" will not last "unless it is quickly followed up with a set of milestones, and a transparent process by which progress will be measured and course corrections implemented" (PLoS Medicine, January 2005).
Development of HIV Vaccine Must Be 'Priority,' Opinion Piece Says
Preventing the spread of HIV by "discovering and making accessible an effective vaccine" must be a "priority" for the U.S. government, the private sector, academia and other countries, including the G8 nations, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Patty Stonesifer, co-chair and president of the Gates Foundation, write in a Washington Post opinion piece. Although "dedicated" scientists worldwide have "collaborated on significant discoveries," they have had "no shared strategy" for vaccine development, no "standardized tools" and no "forum to identify priorities and share information," the authors write. Although the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise is committed to speeding the development of a vaccine by "working more collaboratively, more strategically and more aggressively," such a "risky and expensive venture" will succeed only if "government leaders, donors and researchers around the world work together to make it happen," the authors write.
Opportunities Over Next Year
This year will "present three concrete opportunities" for the enterprise to "achieve real progress," according to Lager and Stonesifer. First, Congress must "continue to make the fight against AIDS a priority in U.S. foreign policy and in future spending," by funding the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and its components, including research centers, the authors write. Second, governments, the private sector, researchers, donors and community leaders must "act on a set of priorities to help accelerate the search for a vaccine," including increasing private sector funding, finding "new approaches to crack the major scientific barriers," encouraging community members to participate in vaccine trials and increasing the number of trained researchers and clinical trials conducted in developing countries, the authors write. Finally, other wealthy nations must "make this project a priority for focusing their resources on it," according to Lager and Stonesifer, who add that "[n]ow is the moment for these countries ... to make real commitments to support the enterprise" though actions like "creating their own vaccine research centers and linking them in a global effort." "This year we can make genuine headway in the fight against AIDS -- a pandemic that threatens mankind in a way no other disease has," the authors write, concluding that in the "decade ahead why shouldn't we demand [an] ... urgent effort ... to stop this scourge?" (Lager/Stonesifer, Washington Post, 1/19).