Baltimore Will Head New Effort To Develop a Vaccine for HIV

January 1, 1997

BETHESDA, Md--Nobel laureate David Baltimore, PhD, will lead a National Institutes of Health effort to revive the flagging search for an effective HIV vaccine. NIH Director Harold Varmus, MD, named Dr. Baltimore to head a committee that will search for new ideas and new approaches to a research endeavor that has failed to yield a vaccine after a decade of intense work.

BETHESDA, Md--Nobel laureate David Baltimore, PhD, will lead a NationalInstitutes of Health effort to revive the flagging search for an effectiveHIV vaccine. NIH Director Harold Varmus, MD, named Dr. Baltimore to heada committee that will search for new ideas and new approaches to a researchendeavor that has failed to yield a vaccine after a decade of intense work.

Dr. Baltimore will work within NIH and among the AIDS community to ferretout innovative ideas. "It is going to be a trans-NIH effort,"said Donald M. Ralbovsky, a communications officer in Dr. Varmus' office."He will have access to and be working with all the institute directorswho have an interest in HIV vaccine research, as well as the director ofthe Office of AIDS Research, Dr. William Paul, and Dr. Varmus."

The appointment of Dr. Baltimore, a microbiologist at the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology, followed two recent reports critical of the slowprogress made in the search for a clinically useful HIV vaccine.

The Levine Report, prepared by more than 100 scientists and others involvedin dealing with the AIDS epidemic, urged the recruitment of new scientists--especiallyimmunologists--to the vaccine effort and the appointment of a distinguishedscientist from outside the government to correct what the committee sawas a lack direction and oversight.

That report, which Dr. Baltimore helped prepare, also urged formationof a new program that would meld related research at several NIH institutesinto a new, more creative AIDS vaccine search.

A second report, by the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, complainedthat companies have essentially given up on AIDS vaccine development becauseof the high costs, unsolved scientific questions, and potential for legalliability.

Dr. Baltimore plans first to review the NIH vaccine program to makesure his committee fully understands the accomplishments of vaccine scientistsand the research now in progress. Then the committee will hold regionalmeetings in its search for innovative ideas that might spur developmentof an AIDS vaccine.

Dr. Baltimore also plans to explore with the pharmaceutical industrywhich specific basic research the government could support that would helpcompanies in perfecting an HIV vaccine.