The failed HIV Merck vaccine study: a step back or a launching point for future vaccine development?

J Exp Med. 2008 Jan 21;205(1):7-12. doi: 10.1084/jem.20072681. Epub 2008 Jan 14.


The world of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines has suffered a baffling setback. The first trial of a vaccine designed to elicit strong cellular immunity has shown no protection against infection. More alarmingly, the vaccine appeared to increase the rate of HIV infection in individuals with prior immunity against the adenovirus vector used in the vaccine. A new study in this issue suggests that a different vaccine approach-using a DNA prime/poxvirus boost strategy-induces polyfunctional immune responses to an HIV immunogen. The disappointing results of the recent vaccine trial suggest that a more thorough assessment of vaccine-induced immune responses is urgently needed, and that more emphasis should be placed on primate models before efficacy trials are undertaken.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • AIDS Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • AIDS Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • AIDS Vaccines / immunology
  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Animals
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Industry
  • Gene Products, tat / immunology
  • Genetic Vectors
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical
  • tat Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus


  • AIDS Vaccines
  • Gene Products, tat
  • human immunodeficiency virus type 1 Tat vaccine
  • tat Gene Products, Human Immunodeficiency Virus