Officials with biotechnology company VaxGen this week said the company may pull funding from its clinical trial of its experimental HIV vaccine AIDSVAX in Thailand early, Thailand's Nation newspaper reports. Company officials said that because VaxGen currently lacks the funds to conduct a thorough analysis of the clinical trial data, it may back away from the study before final data is collected. The Phase III study currently has about 2,500 participants, many injection drug users at a high risk for HIV infection. Although VaxGen officials haven't made a formal announcement about the study, Kajit Choopanya, who is directing the clinical trial, said company employees are split about whether or not to continue financing the research.
Peggy Johnston, director of the vaccine and prevention research program at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a decision by VaxGen to end funding of the research would have "far-reaching" effects on HIV vaccine research in general. "Imagine going to a developing country again and asking them to roll up their sleeves for an efficacy trial if we didn't finish this one," she said. "We are in discussions now to decide what [VaxGen] will need to complete the trial. From a scientific perspective, it would be a tremendous loss not to complete the trial and analyze the data."
VaxGen announced in February that a similar AIDSVAX clinical trial that included many gay and bisexual men in North America and Europe showed that the vaccine reduced the overall rate of new HIV infections by only 3.8%, although there was evidence suggesting that AIDVAX may provide stronger protects for African-Americans and Asians.