Economic crisis overshadows AIDS vax summit

An international AIDS vaccine summit has provided a stage for some gloomy prognostications on vaccine research--and drug research in general--during a time of economic crisis. The meeting in South Africa, where 5.5 million people are infected with AIDS, has been overshadowed by reports that various charitable groups are cutting back on their R&D spending for vaccine research. There is concern that even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  may cut back on their support for the field.

"It's not good news for research in general and vaccine research in particular," Alan Bernstein, head of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, told the Associated Press. "It has been a very turbulent year."

At the same time, scientists have had to bleakly conclude that they are not getting closer to finding a vaccine to stop the epidemic--and may never succeed.  

"Will there be a guarantee that we will get a vaccine in the classical sense? Realistically you can't say that. But that doesn't mean we are going to give up trying," says Anthony Fauci (photo), director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He adds that the failure to find a vaccine also doesn't justify redirecting the R&D money into other ways to fight the epidemic.

- check out the AP report