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Statement of IAVI's Seth Berkley on Merck and Aventis partnering to test an AIDS vaccine

March 26, 2003

NEW YORK, 26 March 2003—Merck & Co Inc. and Aventis Pasteur announced today that the two companies are partnering to conduct human trials of a new vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS.

The vaccine is a combination of two components: one named MRKAd5 and built by Merck, and a second named ALVAC by Aventis. The vaccine, like others now being studied, is intended primarily for people who are uninfected with HIV, to protect them from becoming infected or developing AIDS.

In response to the Merck and Aventis announcement, Seth Berkley, MD, President and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), released this statement:

"By joining forces, Merck and Aventis have made a bold move that could advance the world considerably closer to discovering an AIDS vaccine. A vaccine is the best hope to end the spread of a virus that infects nearly 15,000 men, women and children daily and threatens the survival of whole communities.

"Industry has a critical role to play in AIDS vaccine development. While many companies have shied away from AIDS vaccines in favor of products that are potentially more profitable, Merck and Aventis are in the vanguard. For more than a decade, each has invested significantly in AIDS vaccine research.

"The MRKAd5-ALVAC vaccine has performed well in animal studies, but any vaccine must pass human trials before it can be determined to be effective. Merck and Aventis plan to initiate small human trials of the vaccine later this year. Assuming that it is safe and promising in humans, it must move forward without delay into large human trials. Furthermore, these large trials must be conducted in developing countries where the vast majority of new HIV infections are occurring, and a vaccine is needed most."

About IAVI   IAVI ( is a global nonprofit organization working to speed the search for a vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS. IAVI sponsors public-private research partnerships to build vaccine candidates and test them in humans. IAVI also advocates on behalf of vaccine developers worldwide, and for public policies to assure that when an AIDS vaccine is found, it will be accessible to all without delay. IAVI receives major financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the World Bank; the Rockefeller, Sloan and Starr foundations; BD; and eight national governments.