Robert Gallo in The Lancet on the Search for an HIV Vaccine

September 28, 2005
In today's Lancet, Robert Gallo outlines seven major scientific obstacles that are blocking the development of a successful HIV-preventative vaccine. These include challenges with vaccine design and the lack of a truly useful animal model for studying HIV infection. Despite these problems Gallo states that it is not time to give up on HIV vaccines. He argues that in order to progress there should be a shift in emphasis to rational approaches that are based on solid knowledge of HIV biology.In his article, Gallo, who in the 1980s co-discovered that the HIV virus was the cause of AIDS,says most researchers have accepted that a vaccine will be unlikely to block infection completely. Instead, a useful vaccine would reduce the amount of HIV in the body with the expectation that it will remain low, and not develop into full-blown AIDS.Gallo praises the Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges programme as an example of how to best structure HIV vaccine research. In the Grand Challenges obstacles are first identified by research teams and then put to scientists worldwide, who compete to solve them.Gallo discusses a new programme of the US National Institutes of Health, known as CHAVI (Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Initiative). This programme will gather HIV immunology experts to address key issues and allow them to branch out and mobilise other groups in their attempts to solve them.
Whether our vaccine efforts are best approached by consortia controlled by a small elite group of researchers (the CHAVI programme); by a more open competitive process that targets very specific problems (the Gates Grand Challenges and Enterprise models); or by individual centres working closely with the National Institute of Health and large pharmaceutical companies, remains to be seen.
See the full text here.


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