A promising AIDS vaccine developed by Merck has proven unsuccessful in a major international trial. It’s a huge setback, not just because this particular vaccine was further along than others, but because it used a new strategy shared by a number of alternatives.
It was a high-profile failure in the daunting quest to develop a vaccine to prevent AIDS. Merck’s vaccine was the farthest along and was closely watched by experts in the field.
Officials at the company, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said 24 of 741 volunteers who got the vaccine in one segment of the experiment later became infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In a comparison group of volunteers who got dummy shots, 21 of 762 participants also became infected.
“It’s very disappointing news,” said Keith Gottesdiener, head of Merck’s clinical infectious disease and vaccine research group. “A major effort to develop a vaccine for HIV really did not deliver on the promise.”