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Government Begins 'Mid-Course Correction' on AIDS Vaccine Plans

After the failure of a major Merck & Co AIDS vaccine trial last year in which it appeared that recipients of the inoculation became somehow more susceptible to HIV rather than protected from it, government officials and scientists began "a major overhaul" of its efforts, Reuters reports:

Hiv"Government officials at a summit with AIDS scientists pledged to prioritize spending on lab work and animal tests rather than expensive, and thus far disappointing, large-scale vaccine trials on humans. 'We need to turn the knob in the direction of discovery. That is unambiguous,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who convened the meeting outside of Washington. 'We really do need new and novel ideas.'...Fauci suggested the overall AIDS research budget at his institute, now about $1.5 billion, could tilt more in favor of basic laboratory work rather than vaccine product development, which currently accounts for about a third of spending. 'We really need to seriously look at torquing that balance more to answering some of the fundamental questions that we don't have answers to,' he said. The new funding initiative is expected to begin within months and will focus on both broader, more imaginative research and on encouraging younger scientists to begin cracking HIV's mysteries, Fauci said, adding that all projects were being examined. 'Everything is on the table,' he said."

In February, Fauci reported in the journal Nature Immunology that he and his team discovered a new receptor for the virus which helps explain why it attacks the immune system in the gut. And earlier this month, a Canadian team led by molecular virologist Stephen Barr announced they had discovered a gene which prevents the HIV virus from assembling in a cell culture, shich may provide clues to a more natural means of blocking the virus.

US government sees overhaul of AIDS vaccine effort [reuters]

"Deep Disappointment" from Experts as Merck AIDS Vaccine Fails [tr]

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  1. Fauci has been in charge of NIAID and the final word in NIH research grants for AIDS research far, far too long with nothing much to show for the billions and billions of dollars doled out to pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies. The stockholders and senior mngmt of these companies have benefited astronomically more than people with AIDS/HIV and the general public.

    Nice a guy as he appears to be, it was time for him to go long ago. This latest smoke-and-mirrors move is typical of his impressive ability to keep his job by placating politicians and ego-maniacal medical researchers.

    Posted by: David B. | Mar 26, 2008 10:41:55 AM

  2. So, basically, there's been almost no progress on an HIV vaccine and he's "back to the drawing board?" In the real world - outside la la land academia (and I say that as an extreme liberal with a degree) - he'd be fired.

    Posted by: Ryan | Mar 26, 2008 1:34:01 PM

  3. David and Ryan maybe you guys can solve it then. Since the scientists who have dedicated their lives to this are obviously just playing smoke-and-mirrors and deserve to be fired.

    It seems to me any guy who has gotten HIV in say, the last 15 or 20 years has one person to blame - himself. The "vaccine" is called safe sex with much fewer partners.

    Posted by: OK | Mar 26, 2008 2:54:16 PM

  4. Is this Titanic now sinking?

    Posted by: anon | Mar 26, 2008 3:45:39 PM

  5. OK: You obviously don't know the first thing about AIDS research funding much less NIAID/NIH funded research.

    It's really too bad you weren't in charge of the Polio vaccine - - I'm sure we'd all still be avoiding swimming pools as we got around in our wheel chairs - - you dumbass!

    The NIAID has never funded "new and novel" and "out-of-the-box" research proposals, nor proposals from anything but large, corporate/university controlled direct research or supervised research proposals. Not when they called for "new and novel" in the late 80's and not when they called for "new and novel" again in the early 90's when the Genentech failures with GP160 were revealed. Their funding committee, lead by Fauci and his people, are incapable of funding anyone by the same corporate/university, traditional thinking research labs that they have always funded.

    Again, Fauci needs to go, his people need to go, and the funding disbursement needs to be taken away from the NIH/NIAID machine.

    In plain English, in plain dollar-for-dollar terms - AIDS research as determined by Fauci and the NIAID has been something like 15 times more of a failure than Katrina with devastation broader than 25-30 times those affected.

    AIDS research is an unparalleled government failure lead and controlled by Fauci - based entirely on results.

    Posted by: David B. | Mar 26, 2008 7:02:37 PM

  6. I see no problem with chucking Fauci and his gang in the hopes of getting better results. Why not?

    However, I think comparing the polio vaccine or Katrina clean-up to developing an HIV vaccine is not really accurate and going to lead to a lot of disappointments.

    The polio vaccine was a pussy. It was an EASY target to identify and to create a vaccine against. Katrina was a huge, visible, and completely understandable disaster (albeit immense).

    HIV is a virus unlike any other, one that has evolved specifically to undermine the human immune system. There may not be a way to make a vaccine with what we have now - but I still think it was worth a try. We may all want to point the finger at someone ("it's always got to be someone's fault"), but I have a bad feeling that new teams with 'innovative' approaches may not do much better at all. 'Innovative' in science often means 'throw a hail Mary,' and while it might work I think it's a longshot.....'s hoping we can get it done.

    Posted by: Yeek | Mar 31, 2008 8:43:17 AM

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