Experts at the AIDS Vaccine 2008 Conference in Cape Town this week will assess the direction of AIDS vaccine research and weigh the value of basic laboratory work as compared to large-scale clinical trials. The Oct. 13-15 conference will also give scientists a chance to delve more deeply into the results of failed vaccine trial approaches.
A focus on “neutralizing antibodies” that would allow the immune system to block infection completely is likely to take precedence over existing models that attempt to manage infection after it occurs, experts said. “There’s a real redirection and rethinking,” said Lynn Morris, co-chair of the conference. “Fundamentally, we don’t understand enough about the human immune system and we don’t know how the immune system deals with HIV,” she added.
In recent years, two experimental AIDS vaccines failed during human trials. Both were designed to fight AIDS by encouraging cell-mediated immunity, jump-starting T-cells to stop or slow the progress of HIV-related diseases.
“Neutralizing antibodies are a major component of almost all other vaccines,” said Morris, who is also the head of the AIDS unit at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases. “I think there is going to be a real swing back to thinking about them.” The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative announced last month that it is launching a $30 million joint venture research lab in California to accelerate work in this area.
As funding shifts to basic research, some experts worry that vaccine clinical trials may not receive enough attention.
“There’s no guarantee that basic researchers are going to come up with the answers,” said Morris. “But I feel quite strongly that clinical research should continue.”
Date of Publication
Conferences HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development Research
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