Canadian Institutes of Health Research President Appointed Executive Director of Global HIV Vaccine EnterpriseCanadian Institutes of Health Research President Alan Bernstein on Thursday in Cape Town, South Africa, was appointed the first executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/11). According to Toronto's Globe and Mail, GHVE aims to promote a common strategy to speed up research on an AIDS vaccine among a diverse group of advocates, scientists and business leaders.
GHVE will have a $1 million annual budget to operate its New York-based secretariat, the Globe and Mail reports. The enterprise already has received commitments of more than $750 million to support its scientific plan. GHVE plans to focus on clinical trial capacity, intellectual property, laboratory standardization, product development and vaccine discovery. Although there is "no question HIV is a particularly challenging foe," expectations for a vaccine have been unrealistic, according to Bernstein. "New pathogens come along, and it takes time to understand them," Bernstein said, adding, "We've never had a vaccine in 20 to 25 years."
Stephen Lewis -- former United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and co-director of AIDS-Free World -- said Bernstein is an "ideal choice to serve as a leader among leaders, coordinating the HIV vaccine field and working to build productive partnerships between researchers, donors and advocates." Jose Esparza, senior adviser on HIV vaccines for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the enterprise has an "important role to play in ensuring HIV vaccine development efforts match the magnitude of the pandemic" and that the Gates Foundation is committed to supporting the initiative (Picard, Globe and Mail, 10/11).
According to Bernstein, HIV/AIDS researchers should increase collaboration after Merck last month halted a large-scale clinical trial of its experimental HIV vaccine. "This trial was yet another eye opener for the need for the enterprise," Bernstein said, adding, "We need a mechanism for everybody from scientists to volunteers to get around the table and talk and agree on a common way forward. The AIDS challenge is too important for anybody to say they have a right -- whether it's public or private money -- to keep things secret." Bernstein also said that although the halting of the trial was a disappointment, it is a "mistake to put all our eggs in one basket and think one trial is make-or-break for the field. I don't think that's the case in science" (Hirschler, Reuters South Africa, 10/11).
In addition, Bernstein said that the international community should "pursue all avenues and approaches" to HIV prevention, including methods such as male circumcision, condom use and antiretroviral drugs for people living with the virus, according to the AP/Herald Tribune. He added that he hopes to use his position in part to raise funds from new donors (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/11). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.