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How Do You Fight a Disease of Mass Destruction?

In light of disappointing results of the VaxGen trial announced in February 2003, this AVAC report laments the lack of urgency in getting other vaccine candidates out of the lab and into clinical trials. It provides a critical perspective on the design and testing process that scientists and policy makers alike will find useful.

The report examines the reasons underlying the bottleneck, and raises important but rarely asked questions about the choice of vaccine designs entering clinical trials. For example, will the categorisation of vaccines along the concept of geographical clades prove necessary? AVAC calls for a coherent and systematic comparison of vaccine candidates in order to achieve optimisation of vaccine concepts. Currently standing in the way is a prevailing lack of collaboration between different groups of researchers, and insufficient sharing of data and resources.

In its summary the report notes a few key advances in vaccine trials protocol, including the decision by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, to provide antiretroviral drug treatment to volunteers who become infected during a trial. A rapid and concerted response to the threat of bioterrorism is heralded as a blueprint for how action against the AIDS pandemic can be speeded up.

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