Welcome to HIVe! I am one of the original “bees”, a member of the inaugural Young and Early Career Investigators (YECI) Committee of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise (Enterprise), the group who proposed and shaped HIVe. I thought I’d tell you the story of how HIVe came to be.
Faced with the daunting challenge of developing an efficacious HIV vaccine, a call for changes in the way research was conducted in the HIV vaccine field was issued, which became the Enterprise’s first Scientific Strategic Plan (SSP) in 2005. A lot of interesting things happened after that, including the establishment of the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery by the Gates Foundation and the Center for HIV-AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI) by the US National Institutes of Health, among other developments. New facilities were built, people collaborated more openly and lots of activity was catalyzed but, still, no vaccine (in fact the most promising candidate to that date failed to produce efficacy results in the STEP trial, so much disappointment for the field). Nevertheless, the trend was hopeful, so a new 2010 Scientific Strategic Plan was developed in 2010 and, the more than 400 researchers, policy-makers, funders and advocates worldwide who participated, seemed to agree that they had the “stuff” they needed as a result of the 2005 Plan, but now they needed to get things done faster, smarter and more efficiently. That meant filling in the remaining gaps in research structure, a focus on science and a focus on people. In terms of people, when you are building a team for the future, you recruit from the future, so the young and early career investigators (YECI) committee was formed.
YECI’s from five continents and all areas of HIV vaccine research got together to talk about our experiences as new people to the field trying to get our new ideas heard and trying to establish ourselves in the field. We attempted to define the common ground we had with the Enterprise at-large, which was centered around the reputation of new investigators to bring innovation to the field -- something we wanted and knew that senior investigators, policy-makers, funders and advocates worldwide also wanted. So, based on our personal experiences, we tried to identify where we ran into trouble getting our ideas into the mainstream and how those bottlenecks could be addressed by intervention.
We had many discussions, amongst ourselves and those in the field, to share common experiences: funding could be better, mentorship could be better, access to resources and visibility platforms (conference speaking and review committees) could be better. And most importantly, improvements in these features could reduce the barriers to entry of new investigators coming into the field and growing into valuable participants. One thing we immediately realized on the basis of this discussion was how unique it was for all of us to be in the same room. We also noted how there was no central resource for a new YECI to access information on how to address the issues we had in common. Finally, by chance, we all happened to be wearing black and yellow stripes that day, so it became obvious that we had to build a HIVe.
And so that’s how we got to where we are today. HIVe is the access point for the community that will improve independent funding, mentorship and access to resources for YECIs. HIVe includes easy-to-navigate links to jobs, grants, scholarships and training opportunities; the latest HIV vaccine research news; prominent guest speakers weighing in on the most pressing issues in the field; upcoming events; and an open forum where visitors can post their opinions, participate in debates and discussions, exchange information and pose questions to colleagues.
At the very least, HIVe should increase the communication on these issues, which should lead to more common understanding, and a more sophisticated plan and unified drive behind future interventions in funding, mentorship, open access to data, resource centers in the developing world, training, increased visibility at conferences and on review panels and career development. We already have (recently) the first positive HIV vaccine trial results from the RV144 trial, so the trend is up! And we have a HIVe now, so we can all be in this together and coordinate better, which means better and more honey for us bees. And maybe an HIV vaccine soon for the many of our brethren who so desperately need it. Oh, and this should tell you something: honey never spoils. Ever. Buzzzzzzzz!
Dr. Timothy Cardozo, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at NYU School of Medicine in New York, NY, USA. Tim has been a member of the Enterprise Young and Early Career Committee since 2009.