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There’s A Promising New HIV Vaccine And COVID Vaccine Research Might Help Speed It Along

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A vaccine being tested to prevent HIV infection is showing great efficacy in Phase I testing, potentially leading the way for widespread distribution of what remains one of the most fatal diseases of our lifetime.

According to Pink News:

“The novel vaccine stimulated the production of rare immune cells needed to generate antibodies against HIV in 97 per cent of participants in phase one of human trials. This makes it reportedly the most effective HIV vaccine to date.”

European Pharmaceutical Review added that “The vaccine is being developed to act as an immune primer, to trigger the activation of naïve B cells via a process called germline-targeting, as the first stage in a multi-step vaccine regimen to elicit the production of many different types of broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs).”

The article adds that such production has been “a holy grail” in HIV research, and that “this study sets the stage for additional clinical trials that will seek to refine and extend the approach, with the long-term goal of creating a safe and effective HIV vaccine.”

Dr. William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose laboratory developed the vaccine, said:

“We and others postulated many years ago that in order to induce bnAbs, you must start the process by triggering the right B cells – cells that have special properties giving them the potential to develop into bnAb-secreting cells. In this trial, the targeted cells were only about one in a million of all naïve B cells. To get the right antibody response, we first need to prime the right B cells.”

He added, “The data from this trial affirms the ability of the vaccine immunogen to do this.”

The article also points out the connections between the mRNA research done to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to the world and this research.

“As a next step, the collaborators are partnering with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that harnesses the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells,” EPR reported. “According to the team, using mRNA technology could significantly accelerate the pace of HIV vaccine development, as it did with vaccines for COVID-19.”

“This is a tremendous achievement for vaccine science as a whole,” said Dr Dennis Burton, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research, scientific director of the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center and director of the NIH Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development. “This clinical trial has shown that we can drive immune responses in predictable ways to make new and better vaccines, and not just for HIV. We believe this type of vaccine engineering can be applied more broadly, bringing about a new day in vaccinology.”

It wouldn’t be just limited to that vaccine, though. According to EPR, scientists believe the vaccine technology could be used for what it labeled “other challenging pathogens,” including influenza, dengue, Zika, hepatitis C and malaria.

Lead image: Unsplash.

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Written by Phil West