AIDS vaccine research by an Indian-American

Wouldn’t it be great if an Indian were to find a cure for AIDS?  Or if an Indian-American were to develop a vaccine to prevent AIDS? What if I were to tell you the latter could actually happen?

As things stand, we know we don’t have a cure for AIDS, all we have are retroviral drugs that can slow the spread of the disease. The UN reports that 4 million people are taking retroviral drugs every year for treatment of AIDS.  On the other hand, 2.7 million more people were infected with HIV in 2007 alone (and the UN expects 2008 to have been worse.)

So drugs are clearly never going to be enough; we would need preventive vaccines.  The bigger problem seems to be funding.  Seth Berkley mentions in this recent New York Times op-ed that in 2008, public and private funding for  AIDS vaccine research declined 10% year on year. The recent Thai vaccine research controversy certainly wouldn’t have helped funding either.

Enter Dr. Sudhir Paul, and his research.

This post came about because Sujatha wanted me to do a tag (more of a “spread-the-word” really) about Dr. Sudhir Paul and his research into developing an anti HIV vaccine.  Dr. Paul is a Professor in the University of Texas and also the husband of Ruchira Paul of Accidental Blogger fame. Not only is he trying out a low-cost and different approach to developing the vaccine against the HIV virus, he is also exploring a different funding approach.  I’ll let the tag do the talking:

Mission Anti-HIV

As Dr. Paul says in this video, the ‘abzyme’ approach to attacking the virus at the special weak point could pave the way to developing a low-cost and highly effective approach to attacking the HIV virus, and in the long run, other deadly or debilitating viruses. (More information is available at the website for the Covalent Immunology Foundation.)

Rather than just rely on funds from mega-pharmaceutical companies, the foundation is making an appeal to the general public to contribute small amounts of money, believing that the power of the numbers on the internet can help finance this research and pave the way to a lower-cost vaccine than can be generated via corporate funding alone.

The results of the Thai AIDS vaccine trials have been much trumpeted in the news media, even if it helped only 23 less people get full-blown AIDS in the experimental group with the placebo group, with a grand total of 16000 people in the trial. However, doubts are beginning to set in on whether those results might be purely statistical in nature, rather than a real breakthrough.

Dr.Paul’s approach could very well be one of the more promising current modes of attack against the HIV virus.

So, I’m tagging you, my friends in the blogosphere, if you are convinced, to please consider passing on the above information via your blog, and to tag five others in turn, so this can spread like…well, a virus.

If you’d like to donate money, I notice the Covalent Immunology Foundation has a donation page where you can donate amounts starting from $5.

But whether or not you decide to donate, I hope you can join me in spreading the word.  It doesn’t have to be a tag – it can be an email forward, a badge in your blog (if someone can create one!), a discussion among friends, or any other way you can think of.   You and I did not go on any pulpit and talk about saving the world.  But if this research succeeds, maybe we will have helped a little to do just that.

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4 thoughts on “AIDS vaccine research by an Indian-American

  1. Wouldn’t it be great if an Indian were to find a cure for AIDS?
    Why? Isnt it great if just about anyone finds a cure for a disease that has been an epidemic since the 80s?
    Or if an Indian-American were to develop a vaccine to prevent AIDS?
    The cure is not going to be the sole effort of one man and unless his lab is made up entirely of Indians and is funded solely by Indian government. The way it actually is different from that scenario – a Prof of Indian origins who is now a citizen of the USA, heading a lab in Texas, using NIH money (most likely or money from other ) has provided great insights into possibly making a vaccine for a constantly mutating virus. So how is this an Indian or Indian-American thing? It as an American success story at research.

    • Sure, the infrastructure and atmosphere help a great deal. But while a talented person cannot make much headway without the infrastructure or funding (which is why we have so few notable research papers by Indian scientists), infrastructure alone cannot be a substitute for talent.

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