Breakthrough HIV Vaccine Passes Phase 1 Clinical Test

The experimental HIV vaccine produces the first signs of immunity.

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By: Tiger Deng, Journalist

On December 1, 2022, World AIDS Day, the Science journal published the encouraging results of a small phase 1 clinical trial of an HIV vaccine. The vaccine produced a diverse range of neutralizing antibodies in a small group of volunteers. According to the results, a two-dose regimen of the vaccine, taken 8 weeks apart, can start immune responses against the human immunodeficiency virus.

A Vaccine

The vaccine was made of an modified protein that lives on the HIV virus, according to Business Insider. A working preventive HIV vaccine should evoke the production of diverse neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) that recognize various different strains of HIV as HIV mutates frequently, and shield the patient from infection.

However, it has been impossible so far to trigger bnAbs through vaccination. Therefore, the researchers created the key particle in the vaccine so that it would prepare the body to generate those antibodies. Researchers have been trying for more than 4 decades to develop a vaccine for HIV. However, it was difficult due to HIV’s tendency to mutate. No one has been cured of an HIV infection, except a few special cases.

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative announced in 2018 the start of this phase 1 clinical trial. 48 participants, 18 to 50 years old, received either the vaccine or a placebo. 97% of those that were dosed with the vaccine showed immunal activation of bnAB-precursor B cells, which the researchers say is the first step of immunity. According to William Schief, a professor in immunology at Scripps Research, this technique could train the immune system to recognize different HIV types around the globe.

Schief and team’s vaccine will be used in a series of multiple shots, and each train the immune system with a different HIV particle. Business Insider reports that as the series wraps up, the engineered molecules become closer to HIV viruses, allowing the body to produce antibodies that will bind with HIV strains.

No major side effects were reported.

The Team Is Working With Moderna

Schief and his team are working with Moderna to develop a different HIV vaccine using mRNA to deliver the HIV immuno-training particles. Phase 2 trials will begin soon.