Therapeutic vaccine would inhibit progress of virus in those already infected; most of the recent focus has been on drugs to manage disease
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — One of the scientists sharing the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering HIV said Dec. 6 he believes there will be a therapeutic vaccine to treat the virus within five years.
Luc Montagnier told reporters in Sweden that he believed it was "a matter of four to five years" before a therapeutic vaccine to treat HIV infection is developed. He did not elaborate as to why he believed scientists were close.
Scientists have developed lifesaving drugs that can inhibit the disease, but there is no vaccine to prevent or treat HIV infection. Finding a vaccine has proved elusive in the past, with the most recent trials ending in failure.
However, a therapeutic vaccine would be a key step in fighting the virus, he said. A therapeutic vaccine would be given to people who are already infected, in order to lessen the impact of the disease while a preventative vaccine would, ideally, protect people from HIV.
So far, scientists have focused on drugs to fight the disease because they have been proving effective. In developed countries, AIDS has become manageable, rather than fatal, because of the drugs.
HIV was first identified 25 years ago, but still poses difficult challenges. Scientists cannot explain, for example, why it causes the immune system to collapse.
Montagnier, together with other Nobel laureates, began arriving in Stockholm on Dec. 6 ahead of a week of Nobel festivities that culminates with a lavish banquet and awards ceremony Wednesday Dec. 10.
The 76-year old scientist shares one half the $1.2 million prize with 61-year-old Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, also of France, for their research on HIV. The other half goes to Germany’s Harald zur Hausen, 72, for showing a viral cause for cervical cancer.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Wednesday, Dec. 10 along with the awards in chemistry, physics, literature and economics. The Nobel Peace Prize is presented at a separate ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 12, 2008.