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Advocacy Group Praises Merck-Aventis Pasteur Vaccine Collaboration

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March 27, 2003

NEW YORK - The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) today said it is encouraged by the announcement that Merck & Co. would team up with Aventis Pasteur to work on a potential AIDS vaccine.

"This partnership will bring together some of the most thoughtful scientific minds working on HIV vaccines at two of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world," said Chris Collins, AVAC's Executive Director. "The AIDS vaccine field needs more willingness on the part of product developers to work collaboratively and share lessons learned."

Under an agreement announced today, the companies will combine products that each of them has developed separately and test them as a prime-boost vaccine. The prime will be with Merck's adenovirus-vectored vaccine and the boost will be with Aventis' ALVAC-vectored vaccine, which uses an attenuated bird virus to shuttle HIV genes into human cells.

Collins said he hoped the partnership would extend beyond existing vaccine candidates already on the shelves of these two specific companies. "Hopefully this collaboration will lead to better understanding of how prime-boost approaches work and how they can be optimized." Collins said. "Considerations of proprietary information or product ownership run the risk of impeding research on AIDS vaccines. The Merck/Aventis partnership is a step in the right direction."

AVAC is a community and consumer based organization dedicated to accelerating the ethical development and global delivery of AIDS vaccines. AVAC provides education, analysis and advocacy to advance AIDS vaccine research. The organization does not accept funding from government or the pharmaceutical industry. AVAC is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Until There's a Cure Foundation, Gill Foundation, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights and many generous AVAC Members.