Although they have been successful, the tests are still in the early stages.
After more than 30 years of trying, there may be a promising advance in the search for a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS if left untreated.
Now, preliminary data from an early-stage clinical trial from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, suggests that a new HIV vaccine may show promise.
“These are very early studies. However, they are provocative,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who was not involved in the clinical trial.
Although the candidate vaccine has yet to be tested in larger studies, experts hope this vaccine will succeed where others have failed.
“This is a very innovative approach to developing a vaccine that has not been made before,” said Schaffner, who described the underlying vaccine technology as “a kind of culmination of 21st century science.”
When HIV was first discovered as the cause of AIDS in the early 1980s, researchers thought a vaccine could be created quickly for this virus, as had been done for diseases such as measles, chickenpox, and hepatitis. B. In fact, then-US Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler predicted in 1984 that a vaccine would be available in two years. The researchers soon discovered that there were more obstacles than they had initially thought.
New research from IAVI and Scripps aims to address these difficulties by developing a vaccine that helps the body create “broadly neutralizing antibodies.” Researchers hope to boost a person’s immune system against many variants and mutations of HIV.
This research is based on the “identification of a subset of HIV-infected people … who, in the course of their infection, produce so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies, which basically means that these antibodies can powerfully block the infection. of various types of HIV “. variants, and that’s the key goal, “said Dr. Mark Feinberg, Ph.D., IAVI CEO.
Its initial phase, phase 1 clinical trial, which is still ongoing, involved 48 healthy adults who received a total of two doses of the vaccine or placebo, two months apart. Preliminary data showed that 97% of those who received the vaccine had preliminary evidence that their immune system could produce these broad antibodies.
“The broadly neutralizing antibody is important, because the virus can mutate so quickly that they need something that’s a shotgun, not a rifle … to prevent a variety of different types of HIV setups,” Schaffner said.
The decades-long search for an HIV vaccine is in stark contrast to the development of vaccines for COVID-19, “where the science was ready and we were able to develop vaccines, plural, very, very quickly,” Schaffner added.
Researchers at IAVI and Scripps are collaborating with companies, such as Moderna, to take advantage of the mRNA technology used in the development of vaccines against COVID-19.
Sara Yumeen, MD, is a preliminary year internal medicine resident at Hartford Healthcare St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Connecticut and collaborates with the ABC News Medical Unit.