Though they’ve shown success, these HIV vaccine trials are still in the very early stages…
A Phase 1 clinical trial testing a novel vaccine approach to prevent HIV has produced promising results. The preliminary data comes from an early-stage clinical trial being conducted by IAVI and the non-profit research organization Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, which develops vaccines and antibodies for HIV and other diseases.
The vaccine under review works by stimulating the production of rare immune cells that generate HIV-resistant antibodies. Such a result was found in 97 per cent of human participants administered the vaccine. The trial’s findings were presented at the International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention conference in February, but have only recently generated media attention.
The next steps for this potential HIV vaccine, as with all potential new drugs, will be additional clinical trials to determine efficacy and safety.
“This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well,” William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, said in a statement. “With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans. We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”
HIV, which affects more than 38 million people globally, is known to be among the most difficult viruses to target with a vaccine, in large part because it constantly evolves into different strains to evade the immune system.
“These exciting findings emerge from remarkably creative, innovative science and are a testament to the research team’s talent, dedication and collaborative spirit, and to the generosity of the trial participants,” says Dr. Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI. “Given the urgent need for an HIV vaccine to rein in the global epidemic, we think these results will have broad implications for HIV vaccine researchers as they decide which scientific directions to pursue. The collaboration among individuals and institutions that made this important and exceptionally complex clinical trial so successful will be tremendously enabling to accelerate future HIV vaccine research.”
The study sets the stage for additional clinical trials that will seek to refine and extend the approach – with the long-term goal of creating a safe and effective HIV vaccine. As a next step, IAVI and Scripps Research are partnering with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that harnesses the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells. Using mRNA technology could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development.
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