This week, The David Baltimore finally came out and said what everyone in HIV research is thinking. Every other day you hear press releases from universities and crappy reporting declaring 'HIV VACCINE IN 2 YEARS!!' (Bossman was 'quoted' in one of those articles last summer). But Baltimore finally got a reporter to just say it:
Attempts to control the virus through antibodies or by boosting the body's immune system have ended in failure.
This has left the vaccine community depressed because they can see no hopeful way of success, Prof Baltimore said.
Yup. HIV vaccines. Epic Fails. I mean epic, with recent trials ending after the vaccine somehow increased HIV infection rates.
HOWEVER Im still pissed at Baltimore, and we would have gotten into a tif over his comments. First of all, the rest of the article is pushing the HIV-gene-therapy therapy the Gates Foundation has been funding.
"In the human you really only have one shot which is to try to change genes in stem cells," said Prof Baltimore, one of the leading experts on the HIV virus.
"So we're trying to do that, to design vectors that can carry genes that will be of therapeutic advantage."
I read about Baltimores strategy last fall in Science, 'Building an HIV-Proof Immune System':
Instructive immunotherapyWhat I understand of that endeavor is that you take out someones pre-B-cells, alter them to produce neutralizing antibodies, and insert them back into the patient before they are infected with HIV.
At the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, David Baltimore has teamed up with immunologist Pamela Björkman on an HIV gene-therapy project that he calls "instructive immunotherapy." Rather than bolstering the natural immune response, Baltimore says, "we're instructing the immune system [about] what to make."
This 5-year experiment lives up to its Grand Challenges billing with its focus on inventing virus-fighting antibodies. Gene therapists have paid antibodies little heed because HIV notoriously remains impervious to their attack. "I didn't think we should be giving up on the historically most powerful part of the immune system," says Baltimore. So he and Björkman are attempting to construct an antibody against HIV that's far more powerful than anything naturally produced by the immune system. Baltimore and co-workers then want to use an HIV-based vector to transduce the gene for this antibody into immune stem cells.
Yeah. Thats a workable solution for AFRICA. Common. Common. What the hell.
Id also say that the only HIV vaccine researchers who are 'depressed' are the ones that have been failing and are currently out of ideas. I might be discouraged, but Im not 'depressed'. From my appearance on IGs show last week:
IG-- Do you think we will ever have a cure for HIV?Here is why I think others might be 'depressed' (*warning* following info is from a bratty student bitching at people who have been involved in HIV research since before she was born). Remember quasispecies? How its like a big cloud floating in sequence-space? Current vaccine trials have been like shooting V2s into the cloud. The cloud doesnt care.
ERV-- Im not sure about a 'cure'. I would be happy with reducing it to a herpes level, where you have to be on drugs, it sucks, but its not going to kill you. Its not going to bankrupt you, trying to get drugs. Im optimistic about a vaccine for it, though! Im not optimistic about current vaccine trials, but Im optimistic about my research and its potential to lead to a workable vaccine target.
My research is based on the hypothesis that the cloud is... um, a cloud. Its a smokescreen hiding the real targets for a vaccine. We have been so intimidated by the cloud that we havent stopped to think that its not the cloud we need to worry about-- there are molecular determinants to sexual transmission. Focus on the viruses with the 'transmission' characteristics. Ignore the rest of the cloud. Got yourself a workable vaccine.
The 'vaccine community' might be depressed, Baltimore, but the basic virologists arent.
Or I might be setting up an epic fail myself.