Increased Research, Determination Needed in HIV/AIDS Vaccine Efforts, HIV Vaccine Enterprise Head Says
The disappointment that followed the cancellation of a Merck vaccine trial in September 2007 has been replaced by a renewed determination among the scientific community, Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, said ahead of the 25th anniversary of the scientific paper announcing the discovery of HIV, the CP/Yahoo! News reports. "I could not guarantee that one day we'll have a vaccine," Bernstein said, adding, "But not to try is to say to all the 33 million people" who are living with HIV worldwide, as well as the 2.3 million people who contract the virus "every year," that researchers are "giving up."
May 20 is the 25th anniversary of the paper -- published in the journal Science by Luc Montagnier and colleagues at La Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital and the Institut Pasteur -- announcing the discovery of HIV. Science in its current issue has published an editorial by Bernstein, as well as additional articles about HIV/AIDS vaccine and prevention efforts, to mark the anniversary.
Bernstein in the editorial writes that people who use recent vaccine candidate setbacks to argue that such research is misplaced and that a vaccine cannot be developed are "misguided." He added, "The development of new drugs and new vaccines always take time and is never a straight line, and it's always marked by failures."
According to Bernstein, the result of a number of recent conferences to address HIV/AIDS vaccine research is a consensus to focus on more basic and early-stage clinical research. Such research will allow scientists to examine what happens when people contract HIV, as well as how the immune system functions, Bernstein said. "If we do the kinds of research that's needed to understand how we react to HIV, that ultimately will inform a lot of research on other pathogens," he said (Branswell, CP/Yahoo! News, 5/8).
A summary of Bernstein's editorial is available online.