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HIV-vaccine work will increase substantially

The exact content of the European Union's HIV-vaccine work over the next four to five years will be determined in the coming months, according to the February 1999 newsletter of the EU HIV/AIDS programme in developing countries.

In December, the European Union Research Counci...
The exact content of the European Union's HIV-vaccine work over the next four to five years will be determined in the coming months, according to the February 1999 newsletter of the EU HIV/AIDS programme in developing countries.

In December, the European Union Research Council approved the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration (RTD), covering the period 1998-2002, and with a budget of around 15 billion euro. Within that total, life sciences are to get about 2.4 billion euro.

That money will be spent on a range of 'key actions', one of which is control of infectious diseases, with a likely budget of around 300 million euro.

"Exactly how much of that will go specifically to HIV vaccine work remains to be seen, and it may vary from year to year in response to needs," says the newsletter. "But it is likely to be a substantial increase over previous EU spending in this area. AIDS is regarded as a priority."

The first call for proposals is expected this month, and there may be a sequence of closing dates for funding applications for different activities, with vaccine work (including HIV vaccine) being among the earliest closing dates

The newsletter points out that there have been several other recent significant steps forward in vaccine development:

- The EU HIV/AIDS programme in developing countries, together with its many partners, is looking into the financing and economic aspects and organising several forums to prepare a large-scale response;
- The International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has announced two new HIV-vaccine-development projects, with funding of over US$ 9 million, based on partnerships between Western and developing world institutions. One is a partnership between the Universities of Oxford, UK, and Nairobi, Kenya, on a vaccine that derives from the strains of HIV common in Kenya. The other is a partnership between the US company Alphavax and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, based on strains found in South Africa;
- The World Bank has a special internal task force examining possible financial mechanisms to promote HIV vaccine development - it is due to report by the middle of this year and the EC is collaborating on this;
- A Phase Three trial of one vaccine candidate is under way in the USA, with another scheduled in Thailand. Uganda has been preparing for a vaccine trial for some time;
- The NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the USA has an increased budget for HIV vaccine work in 1999, although it remains a small percentage of its total AIDS budget, and is mainly for basic research as opposed to product development;
- The Indian government has expressed interest in developing an 'indigenous' HIV vaccine;
- Governments of several other developing countries have, to varying degrees, set in train vaccine trials - for example, Brazil, Cuba, China;
- The UK Government has become the first European government to put funds specifically into vaccine development, through IAVI, and the French Government puts substantial funds into vaccine research through, for example, the Pasteur Merieux Connaught subsidiary of French company Rhône-Poulenc.

The vaccine cover story also contains sections on:

- An EC view of donor responsibility, based on a presentation by Dr Lieve Fransen of the Human, Social, Cultural Development and Gender Unit of DG VIII;
- Drug companies' reluctance to develop an HIV vaccine;
- The cost of efficacy trials;
- The IAVI viewpoint;
- Possibilities of contingency loans and advance guarantees;
- Intellectual property rights;
- Reasons for failure to find a vaccine in the last 14 years;
- The UNAIDS view;
- Some ethical issues.

Source: European Commission, DG VIII

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