questions about the wisdom of rushing into clinical trials WASHINGTON -- The first company to win permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to test an AIDS vaccine on humans was an obscure biotech firm in West Haven, Conn. That step, taken in August 1987, was viewed as a great leap forward in the fight against AIDS and a coup by the four-year-old company, MicroGeneSys, in its race against two other firms.

Yet some scientists believe that the company made a false start. Because not enough was known about how the virus worked in animals, they argue, the expensive clinical trials may turn out to be for naught. Indeed, three years later, Micro-GeneSys' vaccine still lingers in clinical trials. In the meantime, three competitors -- Bristol-Myers Squibb, Viral Technologies, and Immune Response --have received permission in the United States to test their vaccines on people. Around the world, numerous...

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