August 31, 2012
AVAC and a broad array of AIDS vaccine partners convened an interactive session made up of a panel and Q&A session with researchers, funders and local advocates to discuss the latest in AIDS vaccine research and explore how AIDS vaccine research remains a critical and integral part of ending the epidemic. Chaired by Margaret McCluskey of USAID and moderated by Mitchell Warren of AVAC, panelists included Rainer Engelhardt, Public Health Agency of Canada; Glenda Gray, Perinatal HIV Research Unit; Kevin Moody, GNP+; Chidi Nweneka, African AIDS Vaccine Partnership; Punnee Pitisuttithum, Mahidol University; Nina Russell, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and Bill Snow, Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.
The lively question and answer session touched on many issues including the impact that new strategies like PrEP or a microbicide could have on trial design. As additional prevention strategies are introduced, trial population incidence should fall. This could mean larger trial sizes. Panelists agreed that this will be an issue that needs close attention in the years to come. Bill Snow noted that if trials must be larger because the prevention is more effective and incidence is declining, that is something to be celebrated. One audience member who described his ongoing work with treatment literacy and community education said the question he is asked most often is, “When will we have an AIDS vaccine?” Nina Russell gave a best-case scenario answer based on the timeline for trials designed to follow up on the Thai RV144 result. A coalition dubbed the Pox-Protein Public Private Partnership, or P5, has a South African trial planned of ALVAC plus a protein boost, similar to the regimen tested in RV144. The P5 is comprised of the Gates Foundation, the US Military HIV Research Program, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, Sanofi and Novartis. Russell said that if this research confirms the Thai RV144 trial, the candidate could potentially move toward licensure by 2022.
Mitchell Warren reminded the audience that history has shown that AIDS vaccine advocacy cannot predict with any certainty when we will finally have a vaccine available for use. Rather researchers, advocates and funders must all work to ensure none of the steps in the timeline take any longer than absolutely necessary.