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Navigating the Path to an HIV Vaccine

May 16, 2018
HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2018

In medical research, the breakthroughs get all the glory. Discoveries of new germs, vaccines and wonder drugs win scientists attention from the media and mentions in history books, building an illusion that medical progress leapfrogs from one “eureka moment” to the next.

But in reality, science is an arduous journey, an incremental process of inquiry and experimentation carried out by innumerable scientists over years. Most of the time, discovery comes not as a flash of inspiration, but as a dawning understanding gained as individual puzzle pieces fall into place.

To the general public it might be discouraging that, 35 years into the epidemic, the medical field has not yet created a vaccine or cure to end HIV and AIDS. But even if progress is not being reported in the daily news, doctors and scientists understand the virus better then ever and, on a daily basis, researchers uncover new information about viral dynamics and immune response.

Among those researchers, clinicians, advocates, volunteers and patients familiar with the fight, there’s more reason for hope than ever. For the first time in history, two HIV vaccine efficacy studies are concurrently underway. These two promising candidates build on years of scientific research and represent cutting edge vaccine technology. Though it will be some time before results from these studies will be released, the ongoing effort they represent should assure the world that progress towards ending HIV has not plateaued. 

Likewise, MHRP stands on its legacy of successful HIV research to reach for new heights. In addition to following up on RV144, MHRP researchers are developing and testing novel vaccine strategies, including new adjuvants and improved protein constructs aimed at the subtype B virus, which is common in the Americas, West and Central Europe, Australia, South America and Thailand. To this end, in the days preceding this year’s HIV Vaccine Awareness Day MHRP met with other leaders in HIV vaccine development to build a coalition of scientists to advance a new subtype B vaccine strategy. 

Today is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, and MHRP sincerely thanks those who have helped pave the path of progress towards an end to HIV, especially those volunteers who give so much of themselves for the sake of others. MHRP’s researchers and collaborators around the world renew our commitment to stay the course until the ultimate breakthrough, the discovery of a safe, effective, global HIV vaccine, is achieved.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Gramzinski
Director, US Military HIV Research Program
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research