Human clinical trials have started for an experimental HIV vaccine that uses the same kind of mRNA technology found in Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine, the drug company announced this week.
The first vaccinations were given Thursday at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, the company said in a news release. Phase I trials will also be run at the Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The vaccine is designed to prompt white blood cells to turn into antibodies that can neutralize HIV, ABC News reported. A booster shot to work with the HIV vaccine is also being studied.
For 4 decades, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has managed to dodge the immune system’s attempts to destroy it. Scientists have not been able to develop a vaccine, though they have made advancements in treatments, such as long-acting injectables for pre- and post-exposure prevention and treatment. HIV can lead to AIDS, which can be fatal.
The release said 56 healthy HIV-negative adults are taking part in the clinical trial, with 48 getting one or two doses of the mRNA vaccine and 32 also getting the booster. Eight people will just get the booster. All of them will be monitored for up to 6 months after receiving a final dose.
The immunogens — antigens that elicit an immune response — that are being tested were developed by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research. They will be delivered using the same messenger RNA (mRNA) technology in Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine, the news release said.
About 1.2 million people in the United States had HIV at the end of 2019, according to the CDC, with more than 36,000 people being diagnosed in 2019.
The World Health Organization says 37.7 million people in the world had HIV in 2020.
“We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Mark Feinberg, MD, president and CEO of IAVI, said in the news release. “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.”
Moderna: “IAVI and Moderna Launch Trial of HIV Vaccine Antigens Delivered Through mRNA Technology.”
ABC News: “Moderna launches clinical trial for HIV vaccine that uses mRNA technology.”
CDC: “HIV, Basic Statistics.”