Scientist Receives $50K Grant From PETA to Study Why There’s No Effective HIV Vaccine After Animal Tests

For Immediate Release:
December 1, 2023

Contact:
Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Utrecht, Netherlands – On World AIDS Day today, PETA is pleased to announce the recipient of a $50,000 grant to fund first-of-its-kind research into the decades of animal testing that has failed to produce an HIV vaccine for humans. Dr. Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga, a professor focusing on “evidence-based transitions to animal-free innovations” at Utrecht University, and her team will complete the study next year.

Credit: PETA

Ritskes-Hoitinga and her team beat out applicants from around the world. They have already begun the initial stages of a systemic review of studies in which monkeys were used to test HIV vaccines and will compare that data to tests of these vaccines in humans. The study is expected to be completed next year, with publication to follow.

“World AIDS Day is a sobering time to remember the more than 40 million people who have died from HIV and the wasteful animal experiments that saved no one. Decades of research, including multiple animal studies, haven’t resulted in a successful HIV vaccine for humans. This systematic review will scrutinize these results in detail,” says PETA senior scientist Dr. Emily Trunnell. “PETA is delighted to award Utrecht University this grant and looks forward to Dr. Ritskes-Hoitinga’s findings.”

Only humans contract HIV and develop AIDS. But nonhuman primates have historically been the go-to model for HIV research. At the seven federally funded primate research centers in the U.S., experimenters infect macaques with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a different disease from HIV that is unique to African primates, or they use an engineered SIV/HIV concoction to mimic the human virus. So far, this approach hasn’t worked.

Prior to moving to Utrecht in 2012, Ritskes-Hoitinga—a leader in the field of preclinical systematic reviews—cofounded the Systematic Review Centre for Laboratory Animal Experimentation while at Radboud University in Nijmegen.

The grant was made possible through a generous donation from PETA supporters Vienn and Salman Al-Rashid.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

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