‘Future’ of AIDS Vaccine Research in Lab Research, Smaller Trials, Editorial Says
The recent "failure" of a Merck HIV/AIDS vaccine has "led to two conflicting calls for action, neither of which got it right," a Los Angeles Times editorial says. Grant recipients "wanted the vaccine search to go on as before," while "treatment activists wanted the money stripped from research," the editorial says, adding that NIH at a conference last week "appeared to be taking a wiser approach" and said that it "would continue funding vaccine research" with a likely focus on "basic research and smaller, less expensive trials."
After the Merck trial was halted, some groups "lost little time ... in calling for vaccine funding to be rerouted to treatment and prevention," according to the editorial. It adds that U.S. funding for HIV/AIDS vaccine research is less than $700 million annually -- a "relative pittance compared with that for treatment and prevention, which stands at more than $15 billion annually and is expected to at least double in the next year." It is "too easy to forget that people can develop resistance to" antiretroviral drugs and "suffer significant side effects," the editorial says, adding that the "research effort that brought about these treatments was a tremendous achievement, but scientists still have much to learn about the virus."
"It made sense to start the vaccine efforts with big clinical trials that, if successful, would have led quickly to drug licensing" because the "need for a vaccine was urgent," the editorial says, adding, "Now, however, we know that these trials cost too much and take too long." NIH officials are "right to say that the best future for an AIDS vaccine lies in the laboratory and in narrower trials that can point to the most promising paths while they add to our knowledge of the disease," the editorial concludes (Los Angeles Times, 4/1).