Expanding translational research is essential to develop a successful HIV vaccine, says Wayne C. Koff, chief scientific officer at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
HIV vaccine development has not kept up with basic science, says Koff.
Research programmes to connect scientists working in viral immunology and HIV pathogenesis with vaccine-development tools are urgently needed, he says.
This means dedicating resources to design a set of immunogens that create neutralising antibodies to prevent HIV infection and another set to elicit cellular immune responses to control infection.
More investment in translational research, which has generally been limited to 3–5 year programmes for small academic consortia is needed. While public-sector funds have effectively fostered basic research, they have not attracted new talent to HIV vaccine research, created links with industry or fostered innovation in vaccine discovery.
Koff calls for three new funding mechanisms to support translational research: 'young investigator awards' that offer 5–7 years of salary and flexible funding; inducements for biopharmaceutical investment, including advanced market commitments or intellectual property incentives; and direct support for research teams, amounting to ten per cent of annual investment in HIV vaccine research.