Thursday, March 27, 2008

Low Summit: Setbacks in HIV Vaccine Research

March 26 NYTimes and Washington Post ran stories about a "summit meeting" of HIV vaccine researchers at the NIH. According to the reports, the meeting was prompted by a widely publicized study in which a highly promising Merck HIV vaccine candidate proved ineffective in a large placebo controlled study. Even more disturbing is an analysis indicating that the vaccine might have increased seroconversion rates in volunteers who received the vaccine.

Interestingly, news reports have not tagged this as a setback for gene transfer– perhaps because it does not involve genetic modification of a recipient's tissues. But the vaccine involved strategies– namely, genetically modified adenoviruses– that conventionally fall under the rubric of gene transfer. This counts as yet another reminder of the profound uncertainties and complexities surrounding gene transfer translational research. Over the next week, I'll continue my commentary on this event. (photo credit: ciao chow 2007)

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