AIDS VACCINE: Groups Criticize U.S. Effort
The Clinton administration is failing to keep the promise it made last year "to do all it could to make a vaccine available in ten years" to fight HIV, according to a report released Friday by the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), the Wall Street Journal reports. The group "said the government isn't doing much to boost the limited efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to find a vaccine" and that the effort "will flounder" if a director isn't found for the new AIDS Research Center. "Unless Clinton is able to elicit real commitments from industry and other countries' governments, and the U.S. research effort is further reinforced and streamlined, the pace of research and development will continue at a snail's pace," said AVAC Executive Director Sam Avrett (Waldholz, 5/15). The Boston Globe reports that the AVAC report called the Clinton administration's efforts "a year of good words and gradual advances." However, there are still "no coordinated efforts, no interim goals, no project director, no major new infusions of money, and no presidential jawboning of drug companies to gin up the effort," according to AVAC.
The AIDS group also criticized SmithKline Beecham, the "world's largest vaccine" manufacturer, for "watch[ing] the epidemic from the sidelines." Dr. Jose Esparza, the vaccine development adviser for the United Nation's AIDS program, said the drug industry "doesn't want to get involved" because of reluctance to embroil itself in ethical issues or to face "uncertain economic payoff." "No vaccine is a moneymaker and the science is not clear," said Esparza. The Globe also reports that the scientific community is divided over the issue of how quickly a vaccine should be tested in humans. On the one side are "trial and error" advocates, "impatient empiricists" who want human trials of many experiments, and on the other side are scientists who maintain that it is immoral to test vaccines on humans without knowing their side effects (Knox, 5/16). According to the Wall Street Journal, the AVAC report showed that "only two major corporations" -- the French company Rhone Poulenc SA and the biotech Chiron Corp. -- "are putting large resources into creating an AIDS vaccine" (5/15).
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) President Dr. Seth Berkley on Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the administration's ten-year goal of developing an AIDS vaccine. In his statement, Berkley commended Clinton's leadership and Congress' increased funding initiatives, but highlighted gaps in current vaccine development efforts. He called for globalization of such efforts and urged Clinton to "champion the creation of an international AIDS Vaccine Development Fund ... [and] an international Vaccine Purchase Fund" to be capitalized by the G-8 nations. Berkeley also called for more incentives to "fully engage" the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries in the development of a successful vaccine. He said, "It is unacceptable that 17 years into the epidemic, not a single vaccine candidate has been put into wide-scale efficacy trials, even though 25 candidates have been shown to be safe and most have demonstrated some degree of immunogenicity" (IAVI release, 5/15).
Dr. John Moore, who the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the foremost experts in the field," said the "scientific challenges facing us are not trivial." But, he added, "I do believe it's possible to have a vaccine in 10 years" (5/15). The Boston Globe reports that one vaccine -- California-based VaxGen's -- "is said to be nearing approval of widespread human trials." Another "experimental" vaccine is "on the drawing board," according to the Boston Globe (5/16). See the May 13 issue of the Daily HIV/AIDS Report for more coverage of the one-year anniversary of Clinton's call for a vaccine.