- Two government agencies in the US are
about to waste tens of millions of dollars by running separate trials
of almost identical AIDS vaccination regimes, claims a controversial
commentary in the journal Nature.
In it, John Moore, an AIDS researcher at Cornell University's Weill Medical
College in New York City, argues that one of the two vaccine trials planned
for 2002 should be scrapped. One is led by the US Department of Defense,
the other by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both trials will
test very similar vaccine regimes: a dose of canary pox virus engineered
to express HIV-1 proteins, followed by a booster shot of the HIV protein
The duplication is the result of competition between the rival agencies
and has little scientific rationale, Moore argues. Together the trials
will involve 25,000 volunteers and cost more than $100 million. Yet few
experts believe this vaccination regime will protect people from infection,
Moore claims. Researchers may learn something nevertheless, but that
only justifies doing one trial, he says.
Moore fears that more failed trials will erode public confidence that
an effective vaccine can be found. He recommends that the NIH put its
weight behind the defence department trial, as it is due to begin first.
- Infection risk
- The NIH wasn't able to provide an official
response before New Scientist went to press. But one government AIDS
researcher, who didn't want to be identified, was angered by Moore's charges.
The two trials cannot be combined because they were designed for groups
with different risks of infection, he says. And we will not know if it
works unless we test it in people.
But Dennis Burton, an AIDS researcher at the Scripps Research Institute
in California, says many researchers agree with Moore. "If this was
a vaccine that held real promise, the situation would be different,"
he says. "But it doesn't merit such a huge investment."
Since the NIH's trial plans haven't been finalised, Burton expects Moore's
article to trigger a lively debate. But Moore himself told New Scientist
that he was too busy to discuss the article. "Also," he says,
"I don't really want to add fuel to any fire I have ignited."
Journal reference: Nature (vol 415, p 365) http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991828