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New Industry Survey Finds Need for Increased Government Role in Search for AIDS Vaccine

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May 15, 2003

  Advocacy Group Calls on Congress to Apply Bioterror Incentives in Battle Against Global Infectious Disease

NEW YORK - Private industry is stepping up its quest for an AIDS vaccine, but it needs increased government support to maintain the momentum, according to findings of a new survey released today by the non-profit AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), a watchdog group that accepts no government or industry funding.

The AVAC survey of 11 pharmaceutical and biotech companies engaged in AIDS vaccine research found that more public-sector funding was needed to expand product development and manufacturing, increase the number of international sites where AIDS vaccine trials can be conducted, and guarantee the purchase of AIDS vaccines for rapid global delivery.

"When America became frightened by the bio-terror threat, Congress and the Administration moved swiftly to put funding and incentives in place," said Chris Collins, AVAC's Executive Director. "That same kind of decisive action is needed to accelerate research and ensure an AIDS vaccine is available to all who need it."

Collins criticized a recent decision by the Bush administration directing cuts in research grants for AIDS and other infectious diseases in order to buy 25 million doses of anthrax vaccine. "We simply can't afford to pit one global health threat against another," Collins said.

Results of the AVAC survey were released as part of the group's annual report on the status of AIDS vaccine research. Titled How Do You Fight a Disease of Mass Destruction?, the report includes in-depth articles on delays in getting AIDS vaccines into clinical trials, concerns about whether there are too many "me too" (or similar) products in the pipeline, and the work of the federal government's Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center. This year's report also includes an in-depth look at why the world's first vaccine tailored to combat HIV in South Africa, which has more AIDS cases than any other country, has been stalled for more than a year in entering human trials.

The AVAC report recommends increased funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, stepped up assistance to product developers, and expanded clinical trials capacity internationally.

AVAC will host a reception to release the new report from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight at the Marlborough Gallery at 211 West 19th Street, New York City.

AVAC is an eight year old community and consumer based advocacy organization dedicated to accelerating the ethical development and global delivery of vaccines against AIDS. The organization is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Until There's a Cure Foundation, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Gill Foundation, and many generous AVAC Members. More information on AVAC and the AVAC Report are available at http://www.avac.org/.