Left Field: The Vaccine Shelf
With the hubbub about new vaccine advances, why has our government ignored an older candidate?
by Patricia Nell Warren
Past example: In the 1930s, the technology for higher mileage on gasoline was already happening, but government and Big Oil joined to keep high-mileage carburetors off the market. In 1935, Canadian inventor Charles Pogue patented a device that reportedly tested at around 200 mpg. When the Pogue carburetor hit the news, stock-market panics and widespread resistance braked the device’s marketing. The test figures were later questioned. But the Pogue carburetor worked well enough that, during World War II, the U.S. government secretly installed it on some American military vehicles, helping our troops outrun Nazi Germany with its limited gasoline supply. After the war—unlike nylon, radar and other wartime advances that government allowed to go into wide civilian use—the high-mileage carburetor was put on the shelf.
Even when the environmental movement exploded in the 1960s, and the public cried out for “clean air,” and other inventors worked on other high-mileage approaches, government/industry policy fiercely resisted these innovations, ensuring that the world would go on gulping gasoline. The Fish carburetor, for instance, never got further than limited use in stock-car racing, and the inventor/manufacturer was driven into bankruptcy by government action. Policymakers apparently lost no sleep over the medical downside of air pollution—including an estimated 2 million premature deaths a year from upper-respiratory disease, according to the World Health Organization.
Today the U.S. can send out sophisticated space probes to explore our solar system—yet the handful of “fuel efficient” cars on the market still can’t do much better than 40 mpg.
Meanwhile, for over two decades now, the AIDS industry keeps promising that a vaccine will happen. Now and then, industry honchos send out their PR troops to trumpet the news that a current study may finally hold the key to a vaccine that really works. In 2003, trumpets blared for the DNA-based VaxGen vaccine, and for the Merck STEP vaccine in 2007—but both were disappointments. Today, with the epidemic a quarter century old, the absence of approval for a vaccine that works on most HIV strains is a glaring fact.
Now and then, some academics wonder why. In 2006, Christopher M. Snyder of Dartmouth College and Michael Kremer, senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, posited a possible corporate bias against producing vaccines. Their conclusion: “Simulations based on the distribution of infection risk and income in the U.S. population suggest that revenue from a HIV/AIDS drug may be twice that from a vaccine.”
In July 2010, as the world’s honchos gathered for the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, major media bugled the latest allegations. Under the headline “Advance in Quest for HIV Vaccine,” Mark Schoofs wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “In the latest development, U.S. government scientists say they have discovered three powerful antibodies, the strongest of which neutralizes 91% of HIV strains, more than any AIDS antibody yet discovered….The trick for scientists now is to develop a vaccine or other methods to make anyone’s body produce them.”
As usual, NIAID head Anthony Fauci weighed in about these “exciting advances that will accelerate our efforts to find a preventive HIV vaccine for global use.” Yet the whole vaccine story suggests an eerie repeat of the high-mileage carburetor boondoggle.
For some time, I’ve been looking into the story of the 1989 discovery by Joseph Cotropia, MD—antibody-based research that the NIH once funded, yet the media have ignored. Cotropia’s biotech firm, BioClonetics, Inc. is engaged in the discovery and development of new technologies for use in diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
BioClonetics says the following about its creation: “A human cell line that produces a human antibody, identified as CLONE 3, which neutralizes HIV, the virus known to cause AIDS, rendering it inactive….Experts in the field see human monoclonal antibodies as being the likely way to control HIV/AIDS. At the 2004 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), vaccinologist Maurice Hilleman wrote that any vaccine based upon cellular immunity was unlikely to be effective. In contrast, the CLONE 3 immunogen is a peptide-based HIV vaccine that elicits a humoral protective novel human antibody. Thus, CLONE 3 technology has a clear scientific advantage over DNA-based HIV vaccines which elicit cellular immunity vaccines only.
“In 2005, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of NIAID, stated that a successful vaccine against HIV/AIDS will require inducing the production of a neutralizing antibody. Significantly, the pharmaceutical industry has disregarded this scientific truth that a neutralizing antibody will be necessary to produce a successful vaccine, and has instead focused primarily on DNA-based cellular immunity vaccines, none of which have succeeded.
“A review of the HIV data reported to the Los Alamos HIV Clinical Database (August 2010), reveals that CLONE 3 antibody has the capacity to neutralize 2184 of 2229 (or 98%) of HIV strains identified in the 7 regions of the world.”
BioClonetics goes on to say: “The neutralizing capacity of CLONE 3 has been established in tests conducted by five independent research groups. Research conducted at the University of South Florida… was funded by a six year $1.4 million USD NIH grant….The National Institute of Health (NlH) studies, conducted by Anthony Fauci et al.…and published in Nature Medicine November 2001, provide further validation of the efficacy of this linear amino acid epitope, KLIC, as a protective active vaccine immunogen.”
On July 9, responding to a question from me, Cotropia reiterated by e-mail, “CLONE 3 Antibody was discovered and delineated in spring of 1989 and published in BioClonetics’ first patent specifications that had a priority date of August 24, 1989.”
1989—that’s twenty-one years ago. So… if CLONE 3 looked good to Fauci et al. so early in the epidemic, and if it works against a whopping ninety-eight percent of HIV strains today, why has it been seemingly shelved by our government? Why no ongoing research support for this discovery? Is Big Pharma making so much money from gasoline—er, AIDS drugs—that the government doesn’t plan to launch a vaccine just yet? I’m wondering.
Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Nell Warren. All rights reserved.