Friday, October 20, 2006

Vaccines Will Not Work for AIDS

Speaking of the ever-elusive AIDS vaccine, one of the most compelling statements I've heard in a long time on the subject came from none other than David Baltimore, Nobel-winning retrovirologist who discovered reverse transcriptase and the outgoing President of Caltech. Once the US "nation's leader in the effort to create an AIDS vaccine", Baltimore said in a talk at Synthetic Biology 2.0 "having spent myself many years thinking about and working with people on the development of an HIV vaccine, I came to the feeling that we need new and better approaches. The standard approaches were not going to work....the reason that HIV is a killer is because the immune system is unable to control it. And so when you try to make a vaccine which is dependent on the immune system for its function, the immune system has already failed that test. It doesn't know how to control HIV." His solution? He's calling it "synthetic immunology", engineering the body's immune system to do what it cannot on its own do, recognize and clear HIV.