Brussels, 15 Jul 2004
A report by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), published on 12 July, has warned that global efforts to develop a vaccine against HIV infection and AIDS 'continue to fall short of what is needed to achieve success'.
The report was presented to the international AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand, held to advance the global response to the HIV pandemic. According to the United Nations, a total of 5 million people were infected with the disease in 2003 alone.
The IAVI report argues that while efforts to develop a vaccine have intensified over the last few years, that progress has been outweighed by challenges such as insufficient international cooperation, a lack of resources, and a focus on just one concept for developing a vaccine.
According to Seth Berkley, president of the IAVI, however: 'The single biggest obstacle is that vaccine development is not a top scientific, political and economic priority. The world is inching towards a vaccine, when we should be making strides.'
As a response to these failings, the report calls for a doubling of current spending on developing a vaccine which, according to the IAVI, presently represents less than one per cent of global expenditure on health product research.
One of the main impacts of having more resources would be the ability to expand the range of approaches used to developing a vaccine, which at present are too narrowly focussed. 'Too many scientists are working on the same idea,' says Wayne Koff, chief of vaccine research for the IAVI, and the report's lead author. 'The vaccine field must advance new and different candidates into trials.'
Another important consequence of more money would be the expansion of vaccine trials in developing countries, argues the report. Currently, a number of developing countries are able to conduct small scale trials, but only Thailand has the capacity to carry out large scale studies.
The IAVI would like to see common standards agreed between vaccine agencies on how to assess the promise of vaccine candidates, so that the best can be identified quickly and given priority. The organisation has also pledged to expand its own AIDS vaccine research and development programme.
To download the IAVI report, please consult the following web address: