New proposal for a global AIDS vaccine enterprise

In an article titled, "The Need for a Global Vaccine Enterprise" (Science: 300:2039;2003), 24 of the world's leading vaccine researchers and advocates called for a major effort to expand and restructure the search for an AIDS vaccine. Richard Klausner, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation global health program, was lead author on the paper.

The proposal calls for a coordinated effort similar to the Human Genome Project, in which an international group of scientists agreed on a scientific road map and voluntarily divided tasks. Similarly, this new vaccine enterprise would systematically identify critical tasks, allocate funds and ensure that participating teams of researchers collectively covered the entire range of potential vaccine approaches. To accomplish this, the enterprise would establish new Vaccine Development Centers (VDCs). These could be actual institutes, collaborations or consortia between existing groups, and could also include efforts sponsored by existing funders, such as the National Institutes of Health, IAVI and the European Union—all of whom were signatories to the article.

The VDCs would be part of an interconnected network that also includes manufacturing facilities, central laboratories, and clinical trial sites capable of enrolling a projected figure of 35,000 volunteers into clinical studies each year. The paper did not specify funding requirements or sources for this massive endeavor, and many details still need to be filled in. At press time, major vaccine stakeholders were planning an August meeting, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to discuss the next steps.