BETHESDA, Md--It's time to recycle some old ideas in AIDS vaccines, Nobel laureate David Baltimore, PhD, told the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Baltimore, currently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and president-elect of the California Institute of Technology, chairs an advisory committee named by NIH director Harold Varmus, MD, to devise a comprehensive national research program to develop an effective AIDS vaccine. Looking at the candidate AIDS vaccines tested so far, Dr. Baltimore expressed his concern that none of them may be able to effectively prevent the disease.
The growing understanding of how the human immunodeficiency virus changes and functions has led him to conclude that scientists need to reconsider a variety of vaccine approaches discarded earlier, he said. These include killed viruses, virus-like particles, protein-based vaccines, naked DNA, and live, attenuated vaccines.
Because a live vaccine would involve actually infecting people, albeit with a crippled virus, "that concept is appropriately worrisome," Dr. Baltimore acknowledged. Nonetheless, that approach could be the most effective.
"What the committee is doing is trying to suggest new scientific initiatives," he said. "What we'd most like to do is get new vaccine concepts under testing." However, he emphasized that an AIDS vaccine will take years to perfect: "It is intrinsic to the development that it takes a long time."
Dr. Baltimore said the AIDS vaccine committee has held a series of regional workshops intended to generate new ideas and bring new minds into the effort. "We would like to encourage people who have not worked on HIV to come into the field," he said.