New York, May 14, 2007— On May 18, 1997, during a commencement speech at Morgan State University, President Bill Clinton challenged the world to develop an AIDS vaccine within a decade, setting a "new national goal for science in the age of biology." Ten years after Clinton’s speech, an effective AIDS vaccine continues to elude us. HIV/AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide and poses a serious threat to the economic and political stability of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. But we are making important strides in finding an effective vaccine, and as HIV continues to outpace the global response, developing an AIDS vaccine remains one of the greatest public health and social imperatives facing the world today.
For every person who receives life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ARVs), seven others become newly infected. Only 28 percent of HIV-infected individuals in the developing world have access to ARVs, and the long-term costs of treatment and care escalate rapidly each year. UNAIDS conservatively estimates that US$12.5 billion will be required over the next two years to fund AIDS treatement and care in the developing world alone.
"Ten years ago the AIDS vaccine effort was languishing," stated Seth Berkley, President and CEO, IAVI. "Today, new players, vigor and commitment have enabled IAVI and the field to effectively overcome huge barriers. We still have a distance to travel before we can realize President Clinton's objective, but I am confident that we will get there, if our best scientific minds work together on this enormous problem, and world leaders and their communities back our important efforts."
Since 1997, funding for AIDS vaccines has quadrupled, and political support for vaccines has grown tremendously. In addition, the field has made advances in its understanding of HIV and ways to design an effective vaccine against it. New consortia are aggressively examining crucial scientific questions, and nearly 20,000 volunteers are currently committed to advancing AIDS vaccine research in more than 30 vaccine trials across two dozen countries worldwide. In 2007, we saw the start of Africa’s first large-scale AIDS vaccine efficacy trial involving 3,000 volunteers in South Africa.
"The global community cannot afford to wait another decade to find better HIV prevention technologies. Significant shifts in the way research and development initiatives are funded, organized and conducted are needed so that we can shorten the timeline to a vaccine against AIDS," said Berkley.
Today, ten years after President Clinton’s address, IAVI calls for:
- Increased innovation for the design of new and improved AIDS vaccine concepts IAVI advocates for a new rational vaccine development model to tackle unresolved scientific questions and to develop improved candidates targeting different immune responses, and for new approaches to testing those vaccines in order to speed feedback on their immunogenicity.
- Incentives to increase private sector involvement IAVI supports new financing incentives, such as Advance Market Commitments and special funds for academic researchers and biotechnology companies with novel scientific ideas, which can stimulate broader and more innovative industry involvement in research for neglected diseases, such as AIDS. We encourage the US to commit financially to the AMC pilot which will help to save the lives of millions of children annually.
- Long-term sustainable financial commitment IAVI calls for targeted funding directed towards intensifying vaccine discovery efforts, standardizing and optimizing laboratory methods used to evaluate vaccines in clinical trials, and building stronger regulatory and trials capacity in developing countries.
- Continued capacity building in areas hardest hit by the epidemic IAVI encourages development donors to provide additional financial and technical assistance to strengthen developing countries' scientific infrastructure and human capacity. Expanding research capacity in these countries will set the stage for faster approval and uptake of a vaccine in regions that need it the most to stem the AIDS pandemic.
An AIDS vaccine offers the world's best hope of ending the epidemic. Without a vaccine, another 50 million people could become infected with HIV in the next ten years. Even a partially-effective, first-generation vaccine which reaches a fraction of those who need it could cut the number of new AIDS infections dramatically, savings tens of millions of lives around the world.
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is a global not-for-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the development of safe, effective, accessible, preventive HIV vaccines for use throughout the world. Founded in 1996 and operational in 24 countries, IAVI and its network of collaborators research and develop vaccine candidates. IAVI's financial and in-kind supporters include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, The John D. Evans Foundation, The New York Community Trust, the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Basque Autonomous Government as well as the European Union; multilateral organizations such as The World Bank; corporate donors including BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), Continental Airlines, Google Inc., Merck & Co., Inc. and Pfizer Inc; leading AIDS charities such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Until There's A Cure Foundation; other private donors such as The Haas Trusts; and many generous individuals from around the world.