Uncertainty, II

On the heels of our musings last week about Wall Street's relative ignorance in valuing technology, the latest revelations about AIDS vaccine development are yet another pointed reminder of how difficult it can be to turn even the best science into products.

On the surface, the specific topics are different - due diligence on the one hand, and decisions about moving into large-scale clinical trials on the other. But both are really decisions about capital allocation. In the first case the decisions are made by corporate partners and investors; in the second they are made by companies and the government.

In both cases the fundamental decision is the same: When do you invest?

This time the question arises because the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has decided to take a second look at moving into large-scale trials of candidate AIDS vaccines. NIAID's rethinking comes in light of the failure of several vaccines to neutralize patient isolates of HIV in peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) assays.

NIAID originally had planned to start pilot Phase III trials in late 1994, but with the institute now planning to study the issue next spring, that timetable seems doubtful.

Eroding return

A spokesperson last week told BioCentury the NIAID plans