July 21, 2006 • Posted in Letter to the Editor
N.J. Star Ledger, 07/17/06—Project R&R’s response: Jarrod Bailey, PhD, Scientific Advisor
The news that 25 years of research and billions of public dollars have failed to result in the development of an AIDS vaccine is devastating, but no surprise to scientists who have followed such research closely. Endeavors have focused largely on irrelevant animal models of a uniquely human disease that proved far too different to be of any use. Chimpanzees have borne a significant part of the burden, resulting in over 50 vaccines that worked—in chimpanzees. But, for the 65 million people who live with the virus, our ‘closest genetic relative’ isn’t close enough and every single vaccine failed in over 70 human trials.
Important differences in HIV infection exist between humans and chimpanzees; explaining why, though hundreds of chimpanzees have been infected with HIV, only one developed an AIDS-like illness, under exceptional circumstances. In contrast, human clinical investigations, computer modeling and test-tube research have provided effective anti-HIV drugs that owe nothing to animal research.
Many experts agree that HIV research using chimpanzees has been a grave mistake—a mistake that is also being made in other areas of research such as hepatitis and malaria. The public needs to learn about the scientific invalidity of this research, and the unacceptable ethical cost of using such highly sentient animals in these ways.
It is our responsibility to ensure that we learn from our mistakes, and consign the use of chimpanzees in research to history.
Jarrod Bailey, PhD