The vaccine showed success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to start the process of generating antibodies against the fast-mutating virus. The targeted response was detected in 97 percent of participants who received the vaccine.
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.
“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,” said William Schief, PhD, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose laboratory developed the vaccine.
Schief presented the results on behalf of the study team at the International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) virtual conference Wednesday.
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.
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.