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Michael Palm HIV Basic Science, Vaccines & Cure Project Blog
Written by Richard Jefferys, Director of the Basic Science, Vaccines, and Cure Project at Treatment Action Group. The aim of the blog is to provide an opinionated—but hopefully informative—take on research in these areas, with a particular focus on the scientific literature and relevant conference presentations. Established thanks to a grant from the Michael J. Palm Foundation.

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2017 Pipeline Report
July 18, 2017 – HIV, HCV, and TB Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines, Preventive Technologies, Research Toward a Cure, and Immune-Based and Gene Therapies in Development

2016 Pipeline Report
July 22, 2016 – HIV, HCV, and TB Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines, Preventive Technologies, Research Toward a Cure, and Immune-Based and Gene Therapies in Development

2015 Pipeline Report
July 17, 2015 – HIV, HCV, and TB Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines, Preventive Technologies, Research Toward a Cure, and Immune-Based and Gene Therapies in Development

An HIV Cure and a Vaccine within the Next 15 Years?
TAGline 2015 Spring - Optimism is not without merit, but the science remains incredibly fragile.

Adenovirus Vaccine Vectors and HIV Acquisition Risk: The View from the Summit
A report from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Mini-Summit on Adenovirus Platforms for HIV Vaccines that was held on September 19, 2013. 

The Odyssey of Therapeutic Vaccines for HIV
TAGline 2012 Spring - In the earliest days after the discovery of HIV in the mid-1980s, uncertainty reigned regarding how the immune system responded to the virus. Initially, it was thought that the time between HIV infection and the development of severe immuno- deficiency and disease represented a period of viral inactivity or latency. In this context, it seemed logical to propose that perhaps vaccination could be used to bolster immune response to HIV and thus delay or even prevent the development of illness. But the first efforts toward this goal quickly mired therapeutic vaccine research in controversy, casting an initial pall across the field that was compounded by the failure of any candidate to show significant efficacy. Additionally, the scientific rationale for the approach evolved as more was learned about the pathogenesis of HIV infection and the types of immune responses that may be effective—and ineffective—at controlling the virus. After a period in which enthusiasm regarding the prospects for therapeutic vaccines waned, the recent resurgence in interest in research aiming to cure HIV infection has offered new reasons to pursue their development.

Tallying the TB vaccines in Clinical Trials
July 2011 - The relatively small community of researchers, policymakers and advocates involved in the search for an effective TB vaccine met in Tallinn, Estonia in September, 2010 to assess the state of the field and discuss the path forward. The sense of urgency driving this research has recently been underscored in the new Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015, which explicitly states that without a new vaccine effective against all forms of TB, the goal of eliminating TB as a public health threat by 2050 will not be met. As described by Claire Wingfield in TAG’s annual pipeline report, TB vaccine development has long languished despite the desperate global need, but there are now encouraging signs of progress. On the second day of the Global TB Vaccines Forum, researchers offered summaries of where their candidates stand on the developmental pathway.

Vaccine Breakthrough Comes with Caveats
TAGline 2011 Summer - One of the main sources of pessimism about prospects for an effective HIV vaccine has been the generally poor results obtained in animal models. To date, only a live attenuated SIV (simian immunodefiency virus) vaccine has demonstrated significant efficacy against these challenge viruses, and this approach is too dangerous to be adapted for use in humans.

HIV Vaccine Trial Results: Efficacy and Uncertainty 
TAGline 2009 Novermber - First Signal of Vaccine-Mediated Protection Against HIV Infection is Both Celebrated and Questioned.

Letter to NIAID Director Anthony Fauci Opposing the HVTN 505 Vaccine Trial 
April 7, 2009 - TAG has previously expressed opposition to the PAVE100A vaccine trial involving the Vaccine Research Center’s DNA and Ad5 candidate(i). With the recent presentation by Dan Barouch of new macaque challenge data involving a DNA/adenovirus prime-boost regimen at the 2009 Keystone meeting(ii), we now must vociferously oppose the proposed descendant of PAVE100A, the HVTN 505 trial.

The Shrinking of PAVE100: Large-Scale Vaccine Trial Nixed
TAGline 2008 Summer - NIAID's announcement that it would not support the 2,400-person PAVE100 trial left open the possibility of an even smaller trial, solely evaluating the impact on postinfection viral load set point.

TAG's Response to NIAID 'Request for Information' on Priorities in Basic HIV Vaccine Research
June 4, 2008 - It is of great concern to TAG that many of our recommendations echo many of those made by TAG eight years ago, which in turn echoed those of the Levine Report almost four years prior to that. Given this observation, we hope that NIAID can understand why we greet this undoubtedly well-intentioned RFI with a certain amount of skepticism and cynicism.

PAVE Gives Pause: Position Statement on the Proposed PAVE100A Vaccine Trial
May 30, 2008 - The failure of Merck's adenovirus serotype 5 (Ad5)-based HIV vaccine to protect against infection or reduce post-infection viral load, combined with the evidence of potentially enhanced susceptibility to HIV acquisition among a subset of trial participants, has inevitably cast a cloud across the Ad5 candidate slated for use in the proposed PAVE100A Phase IIb efficacy trial. TAG recognizes and appreciates the work and commitment of researchers at NIH's Vaccine Research Center (VRC) who have developed the DNA and Ad5 HIV vaccine constructs, and their colleagues involved in PAVE100 who have collaborated in an effort to redesign the trial to ensure safety in the light of the data that emerged from the Merck vaccine trial (STEP/HVTN 502, hereafter referred to as STEP).

STEP Vaccine Trial Halted
New York, NY, September 24, 2007 - The Treatment Action Group (TAG) today issued the following statement about the discontinuation of the STEP study, an HIV vaccine efficacy trial conducted by Merck Research Laboratories and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN)