Officials Say Search for HIV Vaccine Needs Overhaul

Researchers of the elusive HIV vaccine were clearly frustrated by the failure of a potential shot, saying that scientists need to take "enormous intellectual leaps" to develop an AIDS vaccine in the coming years. Even a top National Institutes of Health official said they want new people with new ideas to step up and join the search, adding that the focus of their research should center on discovering a vaccine rather than conducting clinical trials for evaluating medicines that may or may not work.

The July 18, 2008 edition of the journal Science contained a report written by a team of researchers concluding that "design of a vaccine that blocks HIV infection will require enormous intellectual leaps beyond present day knowledge." This was after a recent high-profile trial of a potential vaccine not only failed to prevent infection, but also appeared to increase the risk of infection.

Because of the disappointing results, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases held a summit in March on how to reinvigorate research for HIV vaccine. The institute will still support studies for the vaccine, but is raising the bar that candidate vaccines need to pass in order to receive federal support. NIH seeks of fresh ideas on how to approach the discovery of an HIV vaccine, and emphasizes basic laboratory research to fill in key gaps in knowledge including increased research in chimpanzees (as primates are the only species aside from humans to acquire HIV).

When contractors do not meet milestones, or when initiatives do not attract the highest quality of applications, the money will be redirected to more promising research activities. However, the need for more resources aimed at discovering a vaccine comes at a time when the NIH’s budget remains flat.

More than 6,500 new HIV infections occur worldwide on an everyday basis.

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