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Government Incentives Should Extend to AIDS Vaccine Development

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July 22, 2011

NEW YORK -- The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) today hailed new federal legislation that provides financial incentives for private industry to develop vaccines and other antidotes to protect people in the event of biological or chemical weapon attacks.

But AVAC called on Congress and the administration to extend the same kind of incentives as those provided under Project Bioshield to spur private investment in a vaccine to combat AIDS.

"Every day, 8,000 people die of AIDS-related illness and 14,000 become newly infected with HIV," said Mitchell Warren, AVAC executive director. "By tearing apart the fabric of entire societies in the developing world and destabilizing governments, AIDS is as much of a national security threat as various agents of biological and chemical warfare."

Of the estimated $540-$570 million spent for global AIDS vaccine research in 2002, less than 25 percent came from private industry, Warren said. Most of the work was financed by governments and other public-sector sources.

"If we are to find an AIDS vaccine, we must establish new incentives for private industry to greatly accelerate its involvement," Warren said.

Project Bioshield, signed into law by President Bush on Wednesday, will give private companies $5.6 billion in incentives over the next 10 years to develop and stockpile vaccines and other antidotes to chemical and germ warfare. Among the carrots are guaranteed government purchase of the products and accelerated regulatory approval.

"These are exactly the kind of incentives we need to get the private sector, with its wealth of expertise, more involved in developing a vaccine against the worst plague of modern times," Warren said. He said similar efforts should be undertaken to spur private investment in vaccines to combat two other killers in the developing world - TB and malaria.

AVAC is a non-profit and non-partisan group that works to speed the ethical development of an AIDS vaccine. It is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation and other philanthropic groups.