Editorials Respond to Call for Increase in Basic Research, New Strategies for HIV/AIDS Vaccine
Two newspapers recently published editorials in response to a call last week from HIV/AIDS researchers for an increase in basic research on the virus and new strategies for research into a vaccine during an NIH AIDS Vaccine Summit. The summit was held to discuss the future of HIV vaccine research following the recent failure of a Merck vaccine candidate. Experts at the meeting said that NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases should support basic research into HIV prevention, testing and treatment strategies. In addition, researchers said NIAID should support efforts to develop animal models of HIV, and they also called for cooperation between scientists developing such models and those developing vaccine candidates. Several researchers at the meeting -- which drew about 300 scientists from around the world -- said NIAID should fund new, innovative research proposals and support younger scientists who might abandon HIV vaccine research for less challenging fields (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/26).
Summaries of the editorials appear below.
Akron Beacon Journal: HIV/AIDS vaccine researchers have "made the call, wisely, not to chase shadows" and "refocus attention on basic research and direct more of the available resources to developing approaches that improve current prevention and treatment alternatives," a Beacon Journal editorial says. "Disappointing as the development is, the failure of the vaccine route does not mean it is a permanent dead-end," the editorial says, adding, "Scientific breakthroughs rarely follow a deliberate timetable." Curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS "goes well beyond a disappointing quest for a vaccine," the editorial notes, concluding that the Merck "failure emphasizes again that for the foreseeable future, global success in controlling the viral infection will depend on applying precautions research has taught in 25 years, the simplest of which is to avoid complacence about risky behavior" (Akron Beacon Journal, 3/31).
New York Times: Health officials are "rightly determined" to increase support for "basic laboratory research" into HIV/AIDS because "giving up on a vaccine and shifting the money to testing, treatment and prevention ... is too defeatist," a Times editorial says. After 25 years of "toil and struggle," the effort to develop an HIV/AIDS vaccine has "crashed in failure," and no one "yet knows whether a vaccine to prevent the disease will ever be possible," the editorial says. However, NIH is right to increase funding for basic research, "curtail big clinical trials of existing vaccine candidates and funnel money to researchers with novel ideas," the editorial notes, concluding that there is "little doubt that a vaccine would be the most effective and cheapest way to shrink the AIDS epidemic" (New York Times, 3/30).