In The Field

AIDS: The Enterprise

I can’t give my dad the last word on a vaccine!

He points out that there’s a lot of optimism these days about an AIDS vaccine due to the creation of a whopping new entity called the “Global HIV/AIDS Vaccine Enterprise,” with $300 million from the Gates Foundation. [As he also points out, people simply refer to this entity as “The Enterprise,” which leads him to ask, “Was Adel Mahmoud the second choice for chief executive behind Jean-Luc Picard? And if Picard had accepted the job, could he have succeeded simply by saying ‘Make it so’?”]

(Apologies to all the non-Trekkies in the audience.)

But this, to me, shows how both he and I are right.

The search for an HIV vaccine hasn’t always been efficient; scientists have wasted money by running many trials on similar products, even when the products didn’t seem very likely to work. The Enterprise is supposed to solve this problem. It’s supposed to get everyone on the same page, so that people can coordinate thir efforts, share their data, and make sure the most promising possible vaccines make it down the long road from lab to clinic.

Now, researchers are trying not to make the same mistake with research on cool new prevention technologies, such as microbicides and oral prevention drugs.

So, my dad is right: designing an AIDS vaccine is a huge and complicated problem, and it’s too early to call it a defeat. And I’m right: we need to spend precious research dollars wisely, and make some hard choices about those investments.

Ah, the wisdom of age! Looks like the crusty old-timer has taught a lesson to the brash youth…

This time, anyway…


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