New ‘holy grail’ HIV vaccine shows great promise after first human trials

A scan showing HIV-1 virions as round green bumps sprouting from the surface of a cultured lymphocyte cell. Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

A new vaccine has shown great promise in fighting HIV with treatment that successfully stimulates antibody production in human trials.

The new vaccine stimulated the production of rare immune cells necessary to generate antibodies against HIV in 97 percent of the participants in phase one of the human trials. This makes it reportedly the most effective HIV vaccine to date.

IAVI and Scripps Research, which are developing the vaccine, reported that HIV researchers have pursued the “holy grail of boosting the immune system” to “create rare but powerful antibodies that can neutralize various strains of HIV.”

Dr. William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Center for Neutralizing Antibodies, whose lab developed the vaccine, said the vaccine aims to trigger the stimulation of naive B cells. These cells provoke the production of a variety of neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs).

Schief explained: “We and others posited many years ago that to induce bnAb, you must start the process by activating the correct B cells, cells that have special properties that give them the potential to become bnAb-secreting cells.

“In this assay, the target cells were only one in a million of all naive B cells. To get the correct antibody response, we must first prime the correct B cells.

“The data from this trial affirm the ability of the vaccine immunogen to do this.”

He said the study “demonstrates a proof of principle for a new HIV vaccine concept,” and the concept developed in the study “could be applied to other pathogens” such as influenza, dengue, Zika, hepatitis viruses. C and malaria.

Dr. Julie McElrath, one of the trial’s principal investigators and senior vice president and director of the Division of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Fred Hutch, called the trial “a landmark study in the field of HIV vaccines.” He added that the new vaccine and trial “provide a roadmap to accelerate progress toward an HIV vaccine.”

Approximately 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2019, according to UNAIDS. The charity said that 75.7 million people have been infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, and that nearly 1.7 million people were infected with the virus in 2019.

Dr. Ayoade Alakija, Co-Chair of the African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance for COVID-19, celebrated the promising new HIV vaccine on Twitter. She wrote: “This is the most effective trial HIV vaccine to date.

“It is based on Moderna’s COVID vaccine. The acceleration of COVID technology could change prescriptions for cancer and HIV in the future. “

IAVI and Scripps Research said they are partnering with Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that takes advantage of the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells. The organizations said the use of the technology could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development.

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