November 7, 2009
A storm has erupted over the announcement last month that an experimental AIDS vaccine tested in Thailand proved modestly effective. It was billed as a major scientific advance — the long-awaited hard evidence that it is possible to inoculate people against AIDS. But now the trial has been called into question in a way that is overblown and possibly destructive.
But this isn’t the first time the efficacy and safety of a vaccine has been called into question. The government recently announced that $10 million of stimulus money would be used to fund a phase 3 clinical trial of a promising anti-smoking vaccine produced by Nabi Pharmaceuticals of Rockville, Md. However, another company working on a similar vaccine has not been so successful.
Cytos Biotechnology Ltd. said this week that a trial of its nicotine vaccine had failed to reduce smoking behaviors. The study, which is continuing, involved 200 smokers who were motivated to quit. The researchers found that the vaccine, designed to bind nicotine in the blood and prevent it from reaching the brain, was safe and well tolerated. But apparently it did not stimulate high enough levels of antibodies to produce the desired response.
The moment evidence was found that obesity may be linked to a virus, opportunistic drug company researchers dove into developing an “obesity vaccine.” Now researchers say their obesity vaccine could be ready for market in five years. Searching for genetic clues to the obesity epidemic, in the hopes of developing a vaccine against it, is not the answer.