TORONTO--Just a few months after announcing that Adel Mahmoud would head the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, Mahmoud and the Enterprise say they made a "mutual decision" that he is not the right person for the job. "This looks like a misfit," says Mahmoud, who earlier said he planned to step down from head of the vaccine program at Merck to take the job.
The Enterprise is an ambitious effort that hopes to better coordinate the frustrated search for an HIV vaccine. But it has confused many in the field about how, exactly, it plans to operate ever since the concept was first floated 3 years ago in Science (27 June 2003, p. 2036) by leaders of the endeavor. Confusion began to clear when the Enterprise published a strategic plan in January 2005. The National Institutes of Health and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation further clarified the picture when they subsequently invested more than $500 million in new consortia to pursue the plan's aims.
But when it came to choosing a leader, confusion apparently still reigned supreme. "Does the Enterprise need a scientific leader? An ambassador? A scientific administrator?" asks Jose Esparza, the acting-head of the Enterprise. At the time a search committee announced Mahmoud's appointment ( Science, 7 April, p. 51), these questions were still up in the air. Esparza says they realized while trying to negotiate the final contract for Mahmoud that they had separate visions. "This really sets the field back," says Mitchell Warren, who heads the nonprofit AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.
Mahmoud was scheduled to speak today about the Enterprise at the 16th International AIDS Conference here, but Esparza gave the talk instead without mentioning the reason for Mahmoud's absence.