A little bird put the word in my ear that someone was asking my research. Thanks for asking.
I approach science as a 2-phase process......1. doing / figuring out how things work (i.e., labwork and bench research) followed by 2. telling other people what I found in the lab (publishing). Since mid-2006, I have been in the lab plus I moved my lab from Montana to Illinois, which slowed me down a bit. Anyway, I am coming out of a 'doing phase,' and am about to enter a 'telling phase.' All I can say is that this next round of 'telling' is going to be a lot of fun.
The work is progressing nicely. Nothing specific I can offer at the moment because I need to publish my results first, and then I can discuss in a public forum after the fact.
What I can generally offer for the moment is the following. The results are highly positive and should open people's eyes about which approaches are, and are not, worth considering to derive an effective genital herpes vaccine. My results suggest that there is a large amount of room for improvement over the herpes vaccines that have been tried in the past.
From my results, I can see the writing on the wall: genital herpes is almost certainly a vaccine-preventable disease provided that individuals are vaccinated before they become sexually active.
I am often asked, "Can a herpes vaccine be used to cure those who already suffer from recurrent gentital herpes?" I would not rule out this possibility, but likewise I would not hold my breath. There are a hundred reasons why the right herpes vaccine (i.e., an effective vaccine) will protect naive people from later exposures to HSV-2. In contrast, there is not a single historical precedent for curing a persistent infection with an "after the fact" vaccine. Again, not impossible, but just a lot less likely.
Once the work is published, and these data are in the public domain, then the challenge will be to wake doctors and other scientists from their slumber of complacency about herpes....just because we failed to cure this in the past is a LAME reason for saying we cannot cure this disease in the future.....Wake up people! Yes, we can in fact prevent tens of millions of people from acquiring HSV-2 every year if, and only if, we get off of our butts and DO SOMETHING as opposed to talking about, maybe, curing herpes one day, if we happen to have some spare time and a few extra dollars in the NIH budget.
The data I have will not address a myriad of concerns that the FDA will have about a new vaccine, nor will the results provide human clinical trial data so there will still be a lot of unknowns to address. However, I think the data will make a compelling case that we (scientists) need to honestly re-evaluate whether or not our past herpes vaccines were really good candidates, learn from our mistakes (rather than trying to hide our mistakes), and then move forward with something that really works.
That's the long version. Short version......yeah, I am still doing herpes research.....look for published results coming to a theater near you (or Pubmed) in 2009.