February 2, 2018

Fran Priddy Talks Scientific Challenges at AtlanticLIVE’s Vaccines + Immunity

Photo credit: Alexandra GergarWhat’s missing in HIV vaccine development? If you guessed political will or buy-in from pharmaceutical companies, you’d be wrong.

According to Fran Priddy, IAVI’s Chief Medical Officer, it’s actually the virus itself, she explained at AtlanticLIVE’s Vaccines + Immunity event on November 9 in Philadelphia. The event convened top health officials and vaccine experts from both the private and public sectors.

That’s not to say that HIV vaccine research efforts are deficient, however. Priddy’s point is that HIV is an extraordinarily challenging and elusive virus and why, 30 years later, scientists are still trying to understand how the body produces HIV antibodies and how to harness that knowledge in a vaccine.

“The science is really key for HIV,” she said. “That’s really why it’s been such a long road.”

Priddy joined Leonard Friedland of GSK and David B. Weiner of the Wistar Institute for a panel on the latest science, which includes a roster of 260 new vaccines in development by America’s biopharmaceutical companies. She highlighted the last decade’s HIV vaccine progress, such as the discovery of broadly neutralizing antibodies, which has led to a renaissance in the field. As important, she discussed the hurdles facing vaccine product development in light of these successes.

“I don’t think we can expect one component of product development, like pharma, to be responsible for everything,” she said.

While IAVI is adept at convening industry, pharma, academia, and HIV-affected countries, she explained, in-country support remains critical. IAVI works in several countries in East Africa where the disease burden from HIV is disproportionately high. Advocates, scientists, and government officials in Kenya, for example, have called for increased domestic financing for HIV research—including in this 2016 policy brief—but the need is greater than ever.

“It’s super-challenging for these countries, which have so many health issues to deal with,” she said.

Click here to watch a clip of Fran Priddy, and click here to watch the full event, featuring experts from The Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute, Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Human Vaccines Project, and many others.