Decision to scrap HIV vax facility stirs controversy

Canadian public health officials and representatives for the Gates Foundation confirmed recently that they are shelving plans for an $88 million facility to manufacture experimental HIV vaccines. The decision has triggered a brewing controversy among scientists in the field, as well as some harsh criticism from the companies that hoped to win the contract to build and operate it.

Dr. Bill Cameron, president of the Canadian Association of HIV Research says he was disappointed to hear that the project was being scrapped. "You can't test a vaccine without a production facility," he says, adding that researchers would find their work harder to complete. He also noted that academic researchers in particular needed access to a public manufacturing facility.

"The whole point ... was to have a not-for-profit facility for repeatedly and cheaply testing for vaccines," Terry Duguid, the former CEO of Winnipeg bidder International Centre for Infectious Diseases, tells the Montreal Gazette. "It's not designed to make money. It's designed to break even."

But the Canadian government and Gates officials aren't apologizing. They say they had decided to back off after finding that there was plenty of manufacturing capacity available for the work. Also, new criteria is making it tougher to get a new HIV vaccine into clinical trials, which in turn is cutting demand for the manufacturing services.

- here's the article from the Montreal Gazette