Gates study on HIV vaccine facility ‘fatally flawed’: expert

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OTTAWA -- A new report from a Canadian vaccine expert pours water on the Harper government's argument a non-profit HIV vaccine manufacturing facility is no longer needed, opposition critics charged Thursday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/03/2010 (4524 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A new report from a Canadian vaccine expert pours water on the Harper government’s argument a non-profit HIV vaccine manufacturing facility is no longer needed, opposition critics charged Thursday.

Ron Gerson, president of vaccine manufacturer PnuVax and a pharmaceutical and vaccine industry consultant, critiqued a study from the Gates Foundation, which was one of the main reasons Canada shelved its plans to build a manufacturing facility.

Gerson, who was involved in initial reviews of bids for the facility, called the Gates study “fatally flawed” because it looked only at the quantity of manufacturers available to produce HIV vaccines for clinical trials, not the quality of their work.

The Gates Foundation study, released publicly last month, said the HIV community had relied on a small number of “go-to suppliers” but that an analysis uncovered several additional suppliers. It also said because of changes in the HIV vaccine research field, fewer vaccines are expected to be put forth for clinical trials in the next five years.

It led both the Gates Foundation and the Public Health Agency of Canada to conclude there were already enough companies able to produce HIV vaccines and that the planned facility in Canada was no longer needed.

The facility was to have been the centrepiece of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, a $139-million collaboration between Canada and Gates Foundation. It was called off last month.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says the $88 million earmarked for the facility will be spent on other HIV vaccine projects but said negotiations about how it will be spent are ongoing.

NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis believes the decision to kill the facility was political in nature and said the Gerson report disproves the Gates study. She said the government should revisit its decision.

“I think we’re either dealing with incompetence or a cover-up,” she said.

Wasylycia-Leis and Liberal health critic Kirsty Duncan raised the Gerson critique at a meeting of the House of Commons health committee Thursday morning, where it was dismissed by PHAC head Dr. David Butler-Jones.

“This is a critique of a study,” said Butler-Jones. “This is not another assessment. The Gates Foundation and ourselves are satisfied we have enough information to make the decision.”

There were four finalists in the running for the facility and it is believed the Winnipeg-based bid of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases was judged the best by an independent scientific review committee last May.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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