New HIV Vaccine Approach Shows Great Promise In First-In-Hum
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The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research have recently announced the results of an important Phase I clinical trial. The researchers tested a new vaccine approach designed to prevent HIV infections by stimulating the production of rare immune cells. These cells are needed to create the right antibodies to fight HIV.

The trial saw 48 participants divided into a low-dose group or a high-dose group. They received either the vaccine candidate or a placebo in two doses two months apart. Of those who received the vaccine, 97 percent had developed the right immune cells to respond to an HIV infection.

"This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV," Dr William Schief a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC) says. The concept could be applied to other pathogens. "We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens," he says.

The results were presented at the International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) virtual conference in February. The team has been looking to stimulate the body to create broadly neutralizing antibodies or bnABs, specialized blood proteins that can attach themselves to the spikes on the surface of HIV. This is an immune response that can neutralize diverse strains of the virus.

"In this trial, the targeted cells were only about one in a million of all naïve B cells." This priming approach would be the first step in a series that would allow an individual to have developed an immunity against the disease. And the team believes that the priming can be used as a starting point in vaccines that fight off different strains of influenza, as well as dengue fever, Zika, hepatitis C viruses, and even malaria.

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