Editor's note: Fred Hutch News Service reporter Mary Engel and photographer Robert Hood are in Durban, South Africa, covering the news from the 21st International AIDS Conference.
DURBAN, South Africa — Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral live virus polio, once told Dr. Anthony Fauci, “Tony, I do not think we will ever have an HIV vaccine.”
As a physician, Fauci, the long-time director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, had cared for Sabin in his last days. As a friend, he had delivered the eulogy when Sabin died at age 86 in 1993.
But as a scientist, he completely disagreed with one of the preeminent figures in medical history.
“As much as I loved him, my dear friend Albert Sabin will be proven to be incorrect — one of the very, very few times that Albert ever was wrong,” Fauci told a conference hall packed with scientists on Tuesday at the biennial meeting of the International AIDS Society in Durban, South Africa.
Fauci has reason to be optimistic. As the AIDS 2016 conference got underway, the NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network, or HVTN, based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, was gearing up to launch a large-scale trial in South Africa in November, the first such trial to be in the field in a decade and one that could lead to the first licensed vaccine against HIV.
And within the last few months, the HVTN, working with its sister network, the HIV Prevention Trials Network, or HPTN, based in Durham, North Carolina, has begun what is already being called a landmark study to test an experimental, so-called broadly neutralizing antibody that could potentially protect people from infection by almost all strains of the rapidly mutating virus that causes AIDS.