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Trials for ‘next-generation’ HIV vaccine begin at Fred Hutchinson

(Clayton Parker, Flickr Creative Commons)

The first phase of clinical trials for a “next-generation” HIV vaccination is beginning at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research in Seattle and at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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Announced by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), this vaccine would specifically target the human immune system and its response to HIV.

IAVI President and CEO Dr. Mark Feingberg cites “highly sophisticated and elegant vaccine science” as the key behind the trial, pulling from a decade-and-a-half of research on the inner-workings of HIV.

If this proves successful, the result could have wide-ranging positive effects that go well beyond simply finding a cure for HIV.

“This is a big moment, not just for HIV vaccines, but for vaccine science as a whole,” said Dr. Dennis Burton, scientific director of the Neutralizing Antibody Center. “If this type of vaccine engineering is successful, it can be applied more broadly, bringing about a new day in vaccinology.”

The vaccine aims to make immune responses in subjects more predictable, representing a potentially massive scientific breakthrough. Should it produce the desired results, “we can make better, more effective vaccines, not just for HIV but for other viruses, too,” added Dr. Burton.

The trial comes during a time when HIV is still a serious epidemic, with upwards of 36.9 million people affected worldwide. In 2017, 940,000 people died from AIDS-related illness, according to the latest UNAIDS fact sheet.

“The world urgently needs new ways to prevent HIV infection, and chief among these is a vaccine,” said Dr. Feingberg.

The trial will be administered to 48 healthy adult volunteers, receiving two doses of the vaccine each, or a placebo — as is standard in these trials. Partial funding will come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The IAVI hopes to have results by late-2019.

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