Call for Review of AIDS Vaccine
March 31, 2003
AIDSVAX, the AIDS vaccine developed by VaxGen Inc. and reported to potentially have benefits for some minorities, continues to trigger debate as the company prepares to present further analysis at the Keystone Symposia in Canada today. AIDS activist groups are calling on the National Institutes of Health to independently review the company's claim that the vaccine could hold promise for blacks and other minorities, while it failed for the mostly white study's participants.Adapted from:
Controversy over AIDSVAX's results highlights not only scientific validity but also social impact. Some minorities and other groups rejected statements that the vaccine was a failure simply because it did not work for white participants. Several AIDS groups said the company was irresponsible to interpret data based on such a small group of minority participants.
A coalition of seven AIDS groups support an NIH review to determine whether further studies of AIDSVAX should proceed. They also want VaxGen to release its proprietary vaccine data to an outside NIH panel to address statistical criticisms of the company's assertion that the vaccine may benefit certain racial groups. In a letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, coalition members called for further research should the results be proven real, but "if they are the result of an artifact, the public needs to be informed of this expeditiously so researchers and the affected communities can move on to explore more promising vaccine approaches."
Calling for a "very, very thorough, unbiased good look" at the VaxGen data, Fauci said he will assemble a panel that complies with activists' requests for significant minority representation. Should the panel find potential benefits, funding of another trial would be discussed. VaxGen spokesperson Lance Ignon said today's unveiling will be one of many chances for the scientific community to review AIDSVAX data, and he added that the company would comply with an NIH review.
San Francisco Chronicle
03.31.03; Bernadette Tansey