A promising HIV clinical trial led by HIV Vaccine Trials Network (led by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) has been halted in South Africa two years prior to its scheduled completion. With high hopes, the disappointment has global HIV researchers regrouping as hopes were deflated as the promising research failed to show significant improvement over the mild, 31% effectiveness of a vaccine tested in Thailand over a decade ago. But the new vaccine—a redesign of one used in Thailand—evidenced no effectiveness whatsoever.
A Call for Action
Dr. Tom Lunch, the new president and director of Fred Hutch suggested in a first employee meeting that this was a “call for action.” Lynch noted they must learn from this failure and double down on finding the vaccine.
No Evidence No Matter How You Cut it
Dr. Larry Corey principal investigator for HVTN reported to the team at the summary meeting for staffers: “There was no evidence of efficacy, no matter how you cut it.” He is a pioneering virologist who had spearheaded HIV/AIDS research also serves as president and director emeritus of Fred Hutch. He told the group: “You did a damn good job” but emphasized “It was a painful answer, but our job is to do these studies, and you did it incredibly well.”
The HVTN 702 trial—also known as Uhambo, was to test in South Africa the improved version of the Thai vaccine, which remains the only one ever shown to reduce HIV infection rates. The so called RV144 study of that vaccine was carried out by the U.S. Military HIV Research Program and the Thailand Ministry of Public Health, and involved a cohort of over 1,600 Thai volunteers.