AidsVax: message board sizzles as
speculations yield to vaccine facts
failure of AidsVax to prevent infection
with HIV - in clinical trial results
published in 2003 - triggered an intense
debate about the controversial product
and its manufacturer, VaxGen Inc of
Brisbane, California. Mail to this
website, maintained by Brian Deer, shows that
existing material on a VaxGen-AidsVax
index is read by significant
numbers. This page seeks to further
inform the discussion
August 1999, the premier open-access
discussion about VaxGen and AidsVax raged
on the Yahoo Finance VXGN
message board. Server logs measuring hits
from message boards to briandeer.com suggest that
as many people may have read the Yahoo
Finance VXGN board as
all equivalent forums on the company
combined. Posters, anonymized behind IDs
such as newt_eye, Blknite777 and bluehotel (critics of
the company) and plmr2000, wallstreet13 and rumpelstiltskin70 (advocates
for the stock), often quarreled bitterly
about everything from the motives of
VaxGen executives to hidden meanings of
individual price movements.
of the exchanges will have bored even the
most financially-engaged lurkers, but in
the wake of the announcement of VaxGen's
results on February 24 2003,
complete with unexpected claims about ethnic groups, the quality
of messages took off.
a number of posters who got serious with
the statistics in the week
after the results announcement, newt_eye scored most
recommendations with this:
This post has 9
Issues presented by the company
by: newt_eye 03/01/03 01:14 am
The issues have grown.
It started with the failure. Not a
modest falling short. Not 28%
efficacy instead of 30% efficacy.
Efficacy that was not statistically
different from zero.
A CI of -23% to 24%; efficacy 3.8%
p=0.76 means its more likely that
this difference between vaccine and
control is due to random fluctuation
than to a real difference.
Utter and complete failure in the
The new issue is credibility. It is
the mind-boggling tap dance they've
done to claim huge success in the
black population in spite of only 13
total infections and in spite of
their failure to properly correct the
In blacks, the significance
evaporates with correction.
So, add in the Asians. There's
absolutely no biological reason to
create the artificial subgroup of
Africans and Asians, but do it and
you get significance. This is going
to the well again and again until you
can fish up some data that looks
better than the trial as a whole.
The market isn't buying this. The
share selloff continues and I think
it's because these guys have spun and
spun and spun this story and zero
efficacy is overwhelming. "It
works in chimps," is no longer
believable as a rationale for working
in humans. Now it's "It works in
non-white minorities" (come on
give us all a break Don, what the
hell kind of subset is
So, working in "non-white
minorities is supposed to be the foot
in the door that is the big
breakthrough? They had to analyze 9
subsets to get one that looked OK.
They couldn't apply the correction
needed to make the p value right. Now
they want you to think that this is
the start of a big success?
Did you ever wonder if they found a
subset where the vaccine seemed to
increase infection? You didn't see
all the subsets so how would you
know? Would they have mentioned that
as part of the "bad news"
if they'd come across a subset with a
The market isn't buying the spin this
time. The market doesn't trust
"it works in non-white
minorities" because they were
burned by "it works in
the replies came this, from the evidently
This post has 5
newt, blacks, asians, bogus grouping
by: vaxg_what_the_f 03/01/03 10:34 am
Newt, good points that vaxg's lame
paint job makes several incorrect and
stupid scientific assumptions.
As you point out they had to lump
blacks and asians together to make
the subsetting look even a little
plausible. The problem is that there
is no scientific basis to lump blacks
with asians, none. Are Asians more
similar to blacks than to whites or
Skin color is the most superficial of
differences and many caucasoids in
India, the middle east, italy,
greece, Northern Africa, Spain etc.
are a lot darker than say, Northern
Chinese. To any biologist the concept
of human "races" is
dubious, modern homo sapiens recently
went through several genetic
bottlenecks (say 200 kiloyears ago)
followed by a very rapid population
expansion mostly in the 20th century.
Therefore, modern humans everywhere
are much more closely related to each
other than most species including
dogs, cats, and chimpanzees, the
latter of which is actually an old,
highly differentiated species. This
is common knowledge backed up by a
lot of recent genetic population
That blacks and asians are
"minorities" is an accident
of history, geography, and
perspective. Blacks are not
"minorities" in Africa,
Asians are not "minorities"
in Asia, Duh!!!! Their
"minority" status has
nothing to do per se with any
biological reason why they should
respond to an aids vaccine.
Vaxgen to try and subset and paint
their results has resorted to
meaningless groupings with no
biological basis.We now have
chimpanzees, blacks, and asians
versus whites, hispanics, and
monkeys. There is no reason to group
whites, hispanics, and monkeys
These guys are desperate and, in my
opinion, have taken statistical noise
and attempted to draw conclusions
that have no scientific underpinnings
whatsoever. It isn't working as the
stock price slide shows. You say that
they have a credibility problem, not
quite, they have no credibility after
this in the scientific community. The
goose is cooked, stick a fork in it
because it is done. IMHO
another take on the stats from a poster
boasting a similarly long handle, what_is_going_on_999:
This post has 4
Re: statisticians comments
by: what_is_going_on_999 02/28/03
Have you all noticed that the public
is feed a limited subset of data
Vaxgen wants you to believe the
hypothesis that using their
statistics the subgroup analysis
showed efficacy in blacks and asians.
How about other subgroup analysis?
Have you seen any analysis by gender?
or other ethnical minorities? Why do
we see the hispanic group only in the
context of the white group?
Could it be that the same statistical
analysis would show that in other
subgroups the vaccine recepients have
a statiscally significant higher risk
of infection? Of course the proper
answer in this case would be that the
numbers are to low to make any
statements, but that would be kind of
difficult if you want to use simillar
low number to make positive
Also Vaxgen now wants you to believe
that protection in blacks and asians
is due to higher antibody titers?
Need I remind you about a statement
made in the original press release?
"In addition to the results in
those receiving three doses, the
reduction in infection in individuals
who received at least one dose of
vaccine or placebo were similar and
also statistically significant. This
analysis is known as
Can you understand what this says? It
says that there is statistically
significant protection in blacks and
asians who only received one dose of
vaccine. If you have any
understanding of immunology you know
that a singel dose of a subjunit
vaccine in alum hardly induces a
whopping antibody response.
Guess this statment is in
contradiction to the statment about
correlation with high titers?
Also look at the asian subgroup.
Placebo 2/20 equals 10% infection.
Vaccinees 2/53 equals 3.9% infection.
Thus a protection of 61%. Do you
realize that the whole observed
protection hinges on the second
infected placebo recepient? This is a
clinical trial of 1 patient?
Think about it what were your
infection rates in placebos? either
5% or 10% you can't have 1.3
infections in 20 placebos.
Boy Vaxgen is really glad this one
guy didn't use a condom that night
..... Otherwise the asian subgroup
would have been a bust. So how muthch
money do you want to wage on the Thai
posts in the week after the announcement
took the opportunity to question VaxGen's
longterm prospects, including this from iolani_k:
This post has 4
Vaxgen is out of options at this
by: iolani_k 02/28/03 12:04 pm
THink about it for a minute. IF the
company has lost the gov't contract
for the smallpox vaccine and with the
recent failure of aidsvax, what does
the company have going for itself. I
mean, really, think about it. Look
how much capital the company has
Look at the 2002 report and the
amount of cash burn they went thru in
the 4th qtr. DO you really think this
company has the capital to conduct
anything in another clinical trial???
As many others have said throughout
on this board, vaxgen lacks the
capital to fund additional studies
let alone a marketing launch if they
ever got a product approved(Which
will never happen anyway. And how do
you think they would be able to raise
capital to begin with??
Issuing more shares of course! and do
you think this will drive the price
up? Think about it carefully for a
minute and ask yourself:
Does the company have something
concrete that's going to bring the
stock price back up to $6-9???
I think any half intelligent entity
can deduce that htis company ahs
nothing going for it. It is strapped
for cash, it has no successful
products coming to market in the near
future and it is trying from a PR
standpoint to pour sugar over their
failed trials. Do you really think
that there is potential for your
investment here? If so, then buy,
buy, buy. But you know that if
massive buying ever started, there
would be an increase in the short
float again. Do you think the new
short float is done by new investors?
I'll let you in on a secret, it's the
same people who have been shorting
this stock since day 1.
Cut your losses and move on to
anotehr target. THis company is not
for longs. If you want a better value
for biotech, Chiron, genentech are
much safer bets.
not the most frequent or knowledgeable
poster, some mentions were reserved for bluehotel, whose
contributions occasionally resurfaced
from deep within the board. Here's a find
This post has 5
Haunting message from the past
by: hot_day_comin 02/25/03 12:00 am
Over 3 years ago.. How true it was
and still is:
by: bluehotel 02/09/00 02:18 pm
Trader: your efforts to pump this
demonstrably useless product are
getting a bit sad. As I've said
before, it is possible that US and
international agencies will get
together with Vaxgen to dump a dud
vaccine in the Third World, for
reasons of empire and greed, but I
wouldn't put money on it because (a)
it's a bad risk and (b) it's immoral.
may also have thought he was witty.
This post has 4
CORRECTION FROM VXGN
by: bluehotel 02/24/03 02:19 pm
NEWS RELEASE - CORRECTION
A press notice issued at 12am ET
Monday February 24 2003, contained an
The notice made reference to
volunteers who were "black"
Please disregard these subgroups.
The notice should have referred to
"blue-eyed females <26".
Rpt, delete "black" and
insert "Virgos", delete
"Asians" and insert
"blue-eyed females <26".
In these subgroups, AidsVax B/B
showed statistically significant
This news release contains
forward-looking statements and may be
wholly false and/or misleading.
Neither VaxGen nor its officers
accepts any responsibility for
the most regular posters for the
"longs" (people who expected
VaxGen's stock to rise)was plmr2000. This
message was a reply to regular
contributor Blknite777, and may
have caught the mood among the longs on
the weekend after February 24:
Re: Reduces Viral Load?
by: plmr2000 Long-Term Sentiment:
Strong Buy 03/02/03 01:21 am
Well Blachee Im Guessing Monday will
Be a Blood bath .. I Hope .. Then Ill
Jump In .. Wanna Bet I Make Good
Money Here ??? AGAIN ??? LOL ... You
Remain My Perfect Empty Vessel
..Knows All Tells All .. Prophits NOT
At ALL LOL !!! Grow a Sack Blachee
And Come Play with The Men !!!
longs struck a more sober note during the
week, including webbroker.
This post has 8
==== keep your VXGN ; news soon
by: webbroker Long-Term Sentiment:
Strong Buy 02/28/03 02:28 pm
if you're deperate for good
news...one is coming out soon!
just keep your VXGN shares for next
48 hours business days....just be
Happy investing folks!
the results were announced, most posts
were optimistic - sometimes attempting to
predict the future from material already
in the public domain. This highly
recommended contribution, from mike148535, is an
This post has 7
Does anyone read SEC docs ?
by: mike148535 Long-Term Sentiment:
Strong Buy 02/13/03 02:42 pm
Why would Vaxgen hire some big wig
from Pasteur in Feb. if they didn't
know that the data was going to be
positive. Vaxgen has been saying time
and time again that they are
preparing for the big bang.
They have secured a joint venture in
land and and large scale processing
to take place in Korea. They have
hired employee upon employee of
knowledgable individuals from pharma
co's and state that that is the major
reason for their SGA costs
increasing. How much more do they
have to say to convince the public
that this is just waiting for the
magic day when the results will be
Stop reading these message boards and
look at the edgar filings.
Let's all hope for the best for the
confidence may have sprung from many
sources, but one key provider for the
longs was "investment analyst"
(and critic of this website) Porter
Stansberry. Frequent poster rumpelstiltskin70 was among
Re: Porter's fans? Newt,
by: rumpelstiltskin70 02/14/03 10:40
Do you subscribe to Porter
Stansberry's Newsletter? I do. I
think I get my moneys worth. I think
that he and Lashmet
give me enough information such that
I can do my own due diligence and
make decisions. Lashmet is in charge
of a yearly service called Diligence
that garners 5K a year. I don't take
all of their recs. They have NEVER,
EVER, indicated that VaxGen is the
type of stock you should plunge on.
They always give the usual caveats.
But they will tell us unabashedly
that if this sucker hits, we're going
to make very good money. They've been
all over this stock when it was
tanking to five, and up to the 20's.
Years. Say what you will, and they
may turn out to be wrong on this one,
but VaxGen is certainly no pump and
dump for these guys.
in case anybody thinks that most messages
were quite so erudite, laidbackmac brings us
back to earth.
This post has 5
by: laidbackmac 02/15/03 12:01 am
Haha...yup...you're a jackass...
the time lawyers initiated securities
fraud suits against the company in March
2003, many of the more conspicuous longs
on the board had gone silent. Regular
contributor wallstreet13, however,
followed years of ferocious abuse of
those who had correctly advised him of
VaxGen's prospects, with remorse that was
Re: plmr alert!
by: wallstreet13 (M/your neigborhood)
03/18/03 07:25 am
I'm still hurting buddy.
I squeezed a small overall profit out
of this deal, but saw tons of paper
profits go up in smoke in a matter of
time related to what a normal heart
attack takes kill someone. The
results ripped my heart out.
At one time I thought I knew who the
bad guys were, but now I am not so
The class action is a poor attempt to
remedy matters. It's based on
jealously and hate. And even if it
wins there is no money, or deep
pockets to dip into from the company.
The only hope, as I see it, is to
link the inside selling to insider
trading. If the law suit can prove
this, then there will be a chance to
recover some of the losses.
I feel sick thinking about my
"strong buys" at $18. And I
am upset for pulling an order to sell
everything at $19 in this Texas
stakes poker match.
The Porter character was incredulous,
but most of all I'm sick over the
fact there is a nasty bug out there
that will still kill millions in the
I only hope the SEC can find and
punish the short people involved in
than 21,500 messages were posted on the Yahoo
Finance VXGN board between
August 2 1999 and February 24 2003, and
many thousands more since. But why? And,
as emeraldeyz13 points out,
who cares anyway?
This post has 5
What I Really Want to Know
by: emeraldeyz13 02/14/03 11:26 am
Why does anyone give a flying xxx
what I or anyone else invests in?
I could care less what anyone else
does with their money. It is none of
my business, except when the means
and intentions of certain people have
an illegal effect on the stock price.
I'm not accusing anyone because I
have no concrete proof, but I find it
strange that for those on this board
that claim to "only try to
educate and warn the longs, and they
are only here because of their
concern for us and their great
fascination with this stock and its
investors, etc." (paraphased),
they resort to name-calling and
attempt-at-humiliation tactics. I
have very little invested and,
granted, I am not a scientist, but I
will sit it out and wait for the
actual results to come in. I am
comfortable with my loss if it comes
to that and will be very happy if
results are good -- not only for the
comparatively small amount I will
gain, but for the possibility that
some lives may be saved.
Again, it really doesn't matter to me
if some of you think I am a
"Knucklehead" or not. I do
not intend to gloat, nor have I ever,
nor will I blame anyone in the other
case. I just wish everyone would mind
their own business and quit all the
name-calling, etc. I had hopes that
this board was to discuss the matter
with civility and for objective
discussion, but there is so much
stuff to wade through to find just
regular folks with no agenda that
it's really getting rather tiresome.
There, I've said my piece.
LIVE AND LET LIVE!
Peace and luck to all (whichever
position you are in),