Although they have shown success, the experiment is still in its infancy.
After more than 30 years of attempts, the search for an HIV vaccine may make encouraging progress. If left untreated, the vaccine can cause AIDS.
Now, preliminary data from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and early clinical trials at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California indicate that a new AIDS vaccine may be possible.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said: “These are very early studies. However, they are instructive.”
Although the candidate vaccine still needs to be tested in a larger study, experts hope that the vaccine will succeed in other cases of failure.
Schaffner said: “This is a very innovative way to develop a vaccine that has never been seen before,” and he described basic vaccine technology as “the climax of 21st century science.”
When it was first discovered that HIV was the cause of AIDS in the early 1980s, researchers believed that a vaccine against this virus could be made as quickly as for diseases such as measles, chickenpox, and hepatitis B. In fact, the then U.S. Secretary of State Margaret Heckler predicted in 1984 that a vaccine would be provided within two years. The researchers soon discovered that there were more obstacles than they initially thought.
The new research by IAVI and Scripps aims to solve these problems by developing vaccines to help the human body produce “widely neutralizing antibodies.” Researchers hope to stimulate people’s immune system against many variants and mutations of HIV.
This research is based on “identifying a part of HIV-infected individuals… They did make so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies during the infection process, which basically means that these antibodies can effectively prevent multiple HIV infections. Mark, CEO of IAVI Dr. Feinberg said.
Their early phase 1 clinical trials are still ongoing, involving 48 healthy adults, who received a total of two doses of the vaccine or placebo, two months apart. Preliminary data shows that 97% of people who receive the vaccine have early evidence that their immune system may be able to produce these wide-ranging antibodies.
Schaffner said: “Broadly neutralizing antibodies are important because the virus can mutate so quickly that they need to use guns instead of rifles…to prevent various types of HIV.”
Schaffner added that the search for HIV vaccines for decades is in sharp contrast to the development of COVID-19 vaccines. “The science of COVID-19 is ready, and we can develop multiple vaccines very, very quickly.”
Researchers at IAVI and Scripps are collaborating with companies such as Moderna to utilize mRNA technology used to develop vaccines against COVID-19.
Sara Yumeen, MD, is a first-year internal medicine resident at Hartford Healthcare St. Vincent Medical Center in Connecticut, and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Department.