IAVI Releases Blueprint for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Research
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative on Tuesday at the XVII International AIDS Conference released a set of guidelines aimed at developing a safe and effective HIV/AIDS vaccine, Reuters reports. According to the guidelines, researchers should concentrate on smaller, more focused vaccine trials and abandon any candidates that do not show strong promise. "Developing an AIDS vaccine may take more time and innovation than we might have once imagined, but we are confident that science will prevail," IAVI President and CEO Seth Berkley said, adding, "The necessary direction for the field is clear." According to Berkley, the cancellation of a Merck vaccine trial last year does not mean that researchers should give up on developing vaccines.
It is not unusual for it to take decades for a vaccine to be developed, Berkley said, adding that he believes vaccine research efforts will be successful. "We have got to create this new mechanism to be able to turn the AIDS vaccine into a normal product development initiative so that every time there is a failure, it doesn't raise the question of whether this is the end of the line," Berkley said.
According to Berkley, if money is diverted from testing vaccines only to see if they work -- which is an expensive effort -- additional resources would be available to examine more difficult scientific questions. The blueprint calls for solving the scientific challenges associated with developing a vaccine, such as discovering a method of activating the two arms of the human immune system against HIV. "Before vaccines go into efficacy trials, they need to go through a set of screenings to look at evidence they are significantly better," Berkley said. He added that it could be possible to bolster a vaccine's efficacy by implementing things such as another type of virus to carry the vaccine into the body. "We are pushing a whole new generation of vectors," Berkley said, adding, "We have got candidates coming down the pipeline on that."
The approach outlined in the blueprint is similar to one being taken by NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to direct funding to increased laboratory work and animal tests rather than large-scale, human vaccine trials. "Strong scientific evidence in both humans and animal models suggests that developing an AIDS vaccine is possible," Wayne Koff of IAVI said.
IAVI is helping to test five vaccines with NIH, academic research institutions and companies, such as Targeted Genetics, Therion Biologics, Crucell and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals (Fox, Reuters, 8/5).
The blueprint is available online.
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of a conference session about vaccines is available online.