Recent years have not been kind to HIV/AIDS research, with numerous failed vaccine and microbicide trials. Now researchers say a vaccine within the next 10–15 years is unlikely.
In an interview with Nature Medicine, 25 HIV researchers call instead for a "back-to-basics” approach to unravel the biology of the virus.
Vaccine research has shifted from attempting to induce a completely preventative immune response to inducing a protective response that could either prevent infection or decrease viral load in infected patients.
The HIV research community is somewhat insular, some researchers feel, and scientists from other disciplines — along with HIV researchers in developing countries — need to be engaged.
Researchers in poor countries provide a crucial voice in HIV research, they say, and long-term investment in boosting infrastructure, training and career opportunities for such scientists is essential to ensure that they can properly engage in setting the agenda for HIV research.
One mechanism, they suggest, could be integrating these scientists into projects that provide funding both for research and for infrastructure development in developing countries, such as clinical trials funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership.
Julie Overbaugh, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, United States, says: "If we want to look forward to the time when the next generation of scientists is carrying the torch, we should be focusing more effort on training scientific leaders in developing countries."