A US recession could cut AIDS funding and impede the drive to find a vaccine for the disease, according to a senior official with Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.
The US is the center of AIDS vaccine research and contributed $659 million, or 69 percent of the funds earmarked for research in 2007, according to data released at a global AIDS vaccine conference in Cape Town, South Africa. But a credit crunch has raised fears that the US government and the private sector will cut funding to a broad range of programs, including AIDS research.
"If there is a downturn in the economy it's going to potentially have a negative impact on funding for science in general and HIV vaccine research in particular," Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, told Reuters at the conference. "I start from the strong belief that we will not have a vaccine without significant industry engagement."
The conference follows a year that saw scientists drop plans for widespread human testing of the two most promising vaccine prototypes due to safety concerns. The two stalled vaccines, one developed by Merck and the other by US government researchers, both aimed to fight AIDS by jump-starting T-cells to tackle the virus and stop or slow the progress of HIV-related disease, Reuters reminds us.
Early results from a large human trial of the Merck product were discouraging, and data showed the vaccine may have left some people more prone to HIV infection - halting the tests and prompting some scientists to reconsider the model, Reuters writes.
Although disappointing to scientists, the results have not led to a complete halt in vaccine testing. Two South African-developed vaccines will be tested early next year to see if they are safe for further human trials as part of a joint effort between South African and US researchers, Reuters continues.