There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be.
Song 1. Foo Fighters: The Pretender
This song’s lyrics encapsulate my experience of the past 10 years dealing with gD-2 subunit vaccine proponents on NIH Grant Proposals and Manuscripts.
I’m the voice inside your head
You refuse to hear
I’m the face that you have to face
Mirrored in your stare
I’m what’s left, I’m what’s right
I’m the enemy
I’m the hand that will take you down
Bring you to your knees
So who are you [who continue to advocate for gD-2-based vaccines]?
…..You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?
Song 2. Rush: Mission
This song’s lyrics capture what would drive a scientist to swim against the prevailing current for as long as it takes to accomplish the task at hand.
A nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision
Is a dream with a mission
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down
The point for NIH reviewers and my scientific peers is simple…..live HSV-2 vaccines are 100 times better than gD-2 subunit trash in mice, guinea pigs……and in humans too, so enough with the willful ignorance. RVx’s announcement of the preliminary findings of a Phase I Clinical Trial of its Theravax^HSV-2 vaccine should begin to dispel the ludicrous claim that a live interferon-sensitive HSV-2 ICP0¯ mutant vaccine strain that is grossly attenuated in SCID mice would be “too dangerous” to test in humans. This was always a willfully ignorant claim, but now RVx has the data from human subjects to show what clinical trial participants think of the live HSV-2 ICP0¯ mutant vaccine strain that was injected intradermally in the skin of their calves. Oh, and by the way, this therapeutic HSV-2 vaccine provided some badly needed relief to sufferers of a chronic disease that was unresponsive to antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir and acyclovir.
I was in 4th grade when scientists first proposed acyclovir-like drugs to treat and prevent herpes. Guys, I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that any approach that has been failing for 30 years is probably a dead-end. The 70s will forever be the decade of disco, but I am afraid that all of the 70s era-herpes technologies we are still using in 2016 (acyclovir-like drugs; HSV antibody-capture ELISAs; and DNA-free HSV subunit vaccines) just have not worked out. It is time to consider some newer, 21st century technologies in the space of herpes diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
Our focus should not be on the self-interests of a handful of people who stand to profit from the status quo, but should be focused on helping millions of people who needlessly suffer with a chronic viral disease called “recurrent herpes,” whose effects are not well controlled by acyclovir-based drugs that (1) often fail to curb decades of suffering by herpes patients, and that (2) have failed for decades to meaningfully reduce the risk of transmission of HSV-1 or HSV-2-driven disease from herpes sufferers to those they love.
Preventative live HSV vaccines that actually work can end this needless fear. The data from RVx’s recent Phase I Clinical Trial suggests that a therapeutic live HSV-2 ICP0¯ mutant vaccine provides better control of herpes symptoms than current acyclovir-based antiviral drugs, which have been the standard of care in the USA for the past 20 years.
Let’s try something different for a change, and I would suggest that a live HSV-2 ICP0¯ mutant vaccine, proven safe in a Phase I Clinical Trial, is a rational place to start. I have been describing, repeatedly, for the past 10 years why this approach offers a safe and effective approach with the potential to reduce the burden of herpetic disease in the human population by > 99.9%.
So, invoking my inner Jesse Pinkman, I say to my fellow scientists who have been triaging my NIH grants for the past decade, “Enough with the willful ignorance, βιτγθ!”
– Bill H.