As HIV experts gathered for a major global conference in Boston, US, earlier in March, it was a reminder of a decade ago when respected Harvard professor Ronald Desrosiers gave a plenary talk at the same conference, in same venue. This was soon after the STEP vaccine trial, which, instead of protecting people from HIV, was found to have increased their infection risk 41%. This was a dark moment for the HIV-research community as many had high hopes the STEP vaccine would work. Yet I fear lessons have not been learnt from past mistakes. Desrosiers stressed that the failure should have not come as a surprise, given that clinical trials carried out in monkeys had not shown convincing protection from infection. He criticised the use of large amounts of money "to manufacture and test products with little reasonable hope of efficacy". Nearly $200m had been spent on the STEP clinical trial, and even more on product development. However, the failure of the STEP vaccine trial did not dissuade...

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