NIAID Director Fauci To Convene Meeting of HIV Vaccine Researchers To Examine Research Strategies
Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently agreed to convene a summit of leaders in HIV vaccine research to "rethink strategy" and examine "new directions" for research and funding, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Fauci's announcement comes after 15 vaccine researchers wrote to him requesting a reassessment of strategies in HIV vaccine research in response to the failure of three vaccine trials in recent months. The meeting is scheduled for March 25 in Bethesda, Md., the Chronicle reports.
According to the Chronicle, after last fall's cancellation of a Merck HIV vaccine candidate, as well as the failure of two other candidates, HIV/AIDS experts are calling for a delay in trials of new vaccine candidates until research can identify new strategies to develop a vaccine against the virus.
On Tuesday at the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, Ronald Desrosiers, a Harvard University HIV/AIDS researcher and director of the New England Primate Research Center, said that NIH has "lost its way" in HIV research, adding that there "is no rational basis for believing that any of the [vaccine candidates] in the pipeline have any reasonable hope of being effective." He added that the only value of continuing current or planned human vaccine trials would be to prove that the vaccines are ineffective at preventing HIV. The HIV/AIDS research community should accept that HIV is the "undisputed champion" among viruses in its ability to mutate resistant strains, Desrosiers said.
In response to Desrosiers, Fauci said he does not believe NIH has "lost its way" but added that there is a consensus among HIV/AIDS researchers that more research needs to be done to determine what biological steps are needed to cause the human immune system to fight the virus. Fauci declined to comment on whether planned vaccine trials will be delayed or canceled because of the recent trial failures. Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, said HIV vaccine research is at a critical point, adding that he does not believe researchers have the "luxury" to "abandon clinical trials" (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/6).