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Longevity Briefs: Moderna & IAVI begin HIV Vaccine Trials

Posted on 21 February 2022

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that attacks an individual’s immune system, and if left untreated, can lead to AIDS. The virus’s targeting and assault on the immune cells renders an individual unable to fight off other infections.

According to UNAIDS, It is estimated that around 38 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and that up to 1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2020.

What did the researchers do: Moderna Therapeutics, the company behind the development of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, and biotech company IAVI, have recently announced the start of a Phase 1 clinical trial for an experimental HIV vaccine.

Computer image of the eOD-GT8 immune-stimulating protein. Image courtesy of Joseph Jardine, Sergey Menis, and William Schief of Scripps Research and IAVI.

This comes off the back of a positive announcement in February 2021, reporting that a ‘proof of concept’ study showed that the primary vaccine, eOD-GT8 60mer mRNA Vaccine, showed success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to start the process of generating antibodies against the fast-mutating HIV virus. A response detected in 97% of the participants.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: This randomised trial will recruit 56 participants, and will be testing the safety of both primary and booster vaccine doses. 48 of whom will receive at least one dose of the primary vaccine, and roughly 2/3 of those people will also get a booster. Those remaining 8 participants will just receive the booster vaccine.

We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform. The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine

Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI

Although the quest for a long-heralded HIV cure has had it’s fair share ups-and-downs (click here to learn about our interview with Jay Johnson, one of the first people ever to receive a previous HIV gene therapy), it is extremely exciting to see the new mRNA technology, the development of which has been sped up massively due to the pandemic, being used to tackle this devastating disease.

The trial is scheduled to be completed by April 2023, and we are eager to see the results.

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