When Scientists Proved in 1984 that HIV causes AIDS, a vaccine race spun into action. But the sprint to develop an AIDS vaccine now more closely resembles a crawl. Jon Cohen elucidates the forces that have hindered the search: unforeseen scientific obstacles, clashing personalities, the uncertain marketplace, haphazard political organization, and serious ethical dilemmas.When Scientists Proved in 1984 that HIV causes AIDS, a vaccine race spun into action. But the sprint to develop an AIDS vaccine now more closely resembles a crawl. Jon Cohen elucidates the forces that have hindered the search: unforeseen scientific obstacles, clashing personalities, the uncertain marketplace, haphazard political organization, and serious ethical dilemmas. Beyond a powerful critique, Cohen also offers specific recommendations for accelerating the effort....
|Title||:||Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine|
|Number of Pages||:||440 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine Reviews
It’s funny how quickly things change. And don’t.In 1994, the Secretary to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that a vaccine for AIDS would be available within two years. By 2002 – when I first read this book – twenty-five million deaths had been attributed to AIDS. More than forty million people were currently infected with an additional fifteen thousand becoming infected each day. Yet public outcry for a vaccine had lost much of its urgency – at least in the United States – and despite recent advances in immunology, molecular genetics, and biotechnology, the race for a cure had slowed to a crawl.What went wrong?Twenty-five years ago, when science writer Jon Cohen began work on Shots in the Dark, he believed his book would chronicle the discovery of a cure. Instead he recorded the myriad ways that political, religious and financial agendas sidetracked and stymied research at virtually every level. Nor is the scientific community guiltless, their annals clogged with feuds and lawsuits, patent disputes and turf wars. It’s every scientist for himself. Directed, organized, goal oriented research barely exists. The author cuts through this tangle to reveal a relatively simple primary issue. “Companies exist to make money,” Cohen points out, “not to make the world a better place.” With AIDS medication representing a significant profit source, what incentive exists for pharmaceutical companies to fund research into a cure? Factor in political obstruction – due to the sexual aspect of disease transmission – and the result can resemble a blueprint for global catastrophe.While describing such hurdles (but never failing to offer suggestions for surmounting them), Shots in the Dark also provides a disturbing history lesson. In 1917, after two thousand New Yorkers died of polio, many residents attempted to flee Manhattan ... only to be turned back by armed mobs of suburbanites. Still, the author finds cause for optimism in the process by which medical researchers ultimately defeated polio. Times, however, have changed. The conditions (cultural, economic and scientific) that contributed to the development of the polio vaccine do not exist in contemporary America. A remark made by Jonas Salk in 1955 illustrates the disparity. Upon being asked who owned the vaccine, Dr. Salk replied, “The people.”It’s almost impossible to imagine.There are other problems. In a war, heroes are an essential commodity. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed an aggressive stance in the battle against polio, but AIDS first came to light in Ronald Reagan’s America, where it provoked a very different sort of response. (Transcripts of AIDS jokes made by Reagan staffers during press conferences still have the power to shock.) The indifference and hostility of the White House set the tone for all the failures that followed.Cohen’s research proves expert and accessible, his writing clear and impassioned. Shots in the Dark hits its targets dead on.
Even if you are not particularly interested in HIV vaccines, this is a great book to see how science is done in modern society. Politics, personalities, and large-scale trends play critical role in science, for better or worse. It's a great and easy read and one does not need to know much science to follow the story, although with the 20:20 hindsight and knowing how things turned out in the time since the book was written, it is even more educational because it shows how most of things that the author is arguing for either turned out to be non-useful, or came to be, but with unforeseen downsides too. Science is a messy business and it's very hard to bring some kind of order into it. That was not the intended message of the book, but that's what's coming through in the end.
Examining and explaining the history of HIV/AIDS vaccine research, from its beginning rounds on up through 2000, just after which the book was published, Cohen's work explores the individuals, the politics, the bureaucracy, the funding, the scientific processes involved in vaccine research, and even past vaccine developments--all in an effort to untangle the spiderweb of developments, and more often non-developments, that accounted for work toward a vaccine over the first few decades of the world's awareness of HIV/AIDS.Throughout the book, what is frightening clear is how many different personalities and forces did as much to hinder the process as to help. From average slow-moving politics to individuals and companies who could see only their way of doing things and refused to accept options, and on to parties who were unwilling to accept that the traditional paths of research wouldn't work in the case of HIV/AIDS, research was more spastic and half-hazard than clearly directed toward a unified purpose. Cohen at one point describes the various efforts in terms of a child's soccer game, where a team's many members are gathered in an organized fashion, all flailing and kicking in the direction of the ball so that it eventually, more by chance than direct effort of a team, shoots out into some unpredicted direction...and very rarely hits the goal. Similarly, the description above isn't to say that many smart and dedicated individuals weren't directing their efforts toward the search for an AIDS vaccine--it is to say that many of them were working at cross-purposes, or at best, working on niche goals that weren't conceived or clearly understood in relation to other efforts.Cohen's work is meticulously researched, and includes material not just from publicly available documentation, but from personal interviews, observations, and access to personalities and documents generally kept private by the research and/or government offices involved in the research and politics at the heart of this subject. His writing is clear and detailed, giving a careful view to the race for an HIV/AIDS vaccine.On the whole, the book is hard to read not because of Cohen's writing or because of the subject---he's done an admirable job of making the material accessible and allowing readers into the world depicted here, both in terms of science and in terms of politics--but because it is all too clear that the bureaucracy of it all, and the fear of making a mistake, has far more to do with failure than success. In fact, reading Cohen's work and putting together the different pieces makes it seem rather a miracle that our society has ever managed vaccines or scientific developments that depended on more than the power of one individual. Simply, cooperation isn't in the vocabulary of too many people who were directly involved in the work discussed here, and as a result, it is a frustrating read.All told, Cohen's work is an admirable one, depicting a maze of research and personalities which is difficult to accept, but utterly too real. I'd recommend the work to anyone interested in the processes involved in scientific research related to inter-agency or government cooperation and/or funding, or interested in the beginning years' progression of research which is still working toward establishing some level of dependable vaccine for HIV/AIDS.
Very well written and intriguing novel about the search for an AIDS vaccine. He throughly explores all the scientific barriers as well as political drawbacks that have hurt the progress of finding an AIDS vaccine in the past. His research is exhaustive and the book is well documented. It reads as the very best kind of scientific adventure tale. On top of this, he raises many important and thought provoking questions regarding the reasoning behind our failure to discover and AIDS vaccine and how we need to focus on specific things to make progress. As far as content and points of view it was great and would recommend to anyone interested in policy of governments, companies, public view, and history of experiments shaping the AIDS vaccine. Definitely a novel worth reading.
This powerful novel "Shots in the dark" by Jon Cohen is a book that really intrigued me. I learned a lot about the horrible AIDS virus that has effected millions of people since the early eighties. The book focuses on the central aspect of finding a cure for AIDS and what many people tried to figure out at the time. If your trying to read about the AIDS virus and everything about it this would be the book to read.