A coalition of AIDS advocacy groups last week called for the National Institutes of Health to conduct an independent review of the clinical trial results of VaxGen's experimental HIV vaccine AIDSVAX, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The groups requested the review following conflicting data reported by VaxGen that the vaccine was largely ineffective in preventing HIV infections in the general population but that it provided significant protection among Asians and African-Americans. According to VaxGen data, the vaccine reduced the overall rate of new HIV infections by just 3.8% but provided protection in the range of 30% to 84% for non-white, non-Latino trial participants.
In a letter to Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the coalition asked for an independent review so that other health experts can verify VaxGen's conclusions. "If such effects [among minorities] are real, they need to be followed on with further research," the letter said. "If they are the result of an artifact, the public needs to be informed of this expeditiously so researchers and the affected communities can move on to explore more promising vaccine approaches." VaxGen officials said the company would cooperate with an NIH review.