Friday, September 25, 2009

Vaccine trial “is the beginning” of a new path of research

Vaccine trial “is the beginning” of a new path of research, says US health chief

via Aidsmap, by Gus Cairns

General Eric Schumaker, Surgeon-General of the US Army, said today that the result of the RV144 HIV vaccine trial - see this report - “opened new doors and switched on lights” in the field of HIV vaccine research but emphasised that the “modest” efficacy seen in the trial posed more new questions than it provided answers.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the Director of the US National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said: “This is the beginning of a new HIV vaccine research effort, not the end.”

But he added: “This is a welcome and exciting result in a field characterised by disappointment in the last two decades.”

The trial today produced an unexpectedly positive result when 31% fewer infections were seen in recipients of the combined ALVAC/AIDSVAX prime-boost vaccine than in placebo recipients, despite previous trials of both individual vaccine concepts producing negative results.

“This trial poses fundamental ‘black box’ questions,” Fauci continued. “What are the correlates of HIV immunity? Has this trial overturned our understanding of what might constitute a protective response to HIV? Can we improve on this efficacy? And does this result mean we should refocus more on clinical research than basic science?”

He answered his own last question by saying “Not at all. NIAID’s commitment to keeping an appropriate balance between basic science and vaccinology versus empirical clinical trials has not changed.”

Read the rest of this article (and check out other resources) here.

Also of interest: AVAC held a civil society call to discuss the trial and the initial results on Thursday, September 24. This call provided an opportunity for advocates to discuss the results with the researchers and to ask questions about the results and related issues the data may raise. Click here to listen to a recording of the call.

More info on the trial, via AVAC.

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