How to bollix the search for the cure, Step 1 (via The Washington Post):
The two-decade search for an AIDS vaccine is in crisis after two field tests of the most promising contender not only did not protect people from the virus but may actually have put them at increased risk of becoming infected.
There is no Step 2. With Step 1 you’ve already nutted yourself on biggest hurdle to testing vaccines on humans: Fear of catching cooties.
Many researchers are questioning the scientific premises on which all those studies were based and are wondering, along with AIDS activists, what effect this near-worst-case scenario might have on tests of future vaccines.
Bad, but not totally 100% fucked. Once you’ve found a vaccine you want to test on people you’ll have to spend a lot of time and money getting a pool of subjects. And for the love of God make sure everyone working the trial is friendly, personable and patient. If you’re ready for human trials anytime in the next decade the subjects are likely to ask a lot of questions.
The working hypothesis for what went wrong is that the vaccine somehow primed the immune system to be more susceptible to HIV infection — a scenario neither foreseen nor suggested by previous studies.
By now enough people with short attention spans and poor reading comprehension skills will have seen this story. Worse, they will have gotten some sound bite rehash from an airhead on the evening news. The rumors will already be running wild. We may even see a reprisal of [gag] The Government Created AIDS to Kill Black People and the Talevan might stop banging barnyard animals to bleat about God’s Wrath [puke]. But believe me, somewhere on the planet someone is sitting in a bar telling anyone who’ll listen that his best friend’s ex-boyfriend was in that test and he turned into a giant zit and popped and other people will believe him and when there is another vaccine, they’ll tell all of their friends about the guy who turned green, sprouted horns and popped like a giant zit.
But at least response from the medical community has been reassuringly calm:
“This is on the same level of catastrophe as the Challenger disaster” that destroyed a NASA space shuttle, said Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, and head of the Institute for Human Virology in Baltimore.
Well, I can understand why he’s pissed. What’s going on at Harvard?
“None of the products currently in the pipeline has any reasonable chance of being effective in field trials,” Ronald C. Desrosiers, a molecular geneticist at Harvard University, declared last month at an AIDS conference in Boston. “We simply do not know at the present time how to design a vaccine that will be effective against HIV.”