Moderna is adding potentially finding a solution to HIV to their to-do list after successfully producing a coronavirus vaccine with an innovative technique.
The pharmaceutical company announced last week that they and their partner—nonprofit scientific research organization International AIDS Vaccine Initiative—have begun Phase 1 of clinical trials for a HIV vaccine. Doses have already been administered to human test subjects at George Washington University (GWU) School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.
Utilizing the same mRNA technology that enabled the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be effective, IAVI and Moderna will incorporate that same mRNA mechanization into the vaccine’s formation. The clinical trial, titled IAVI G002, is testing how effective mRNA will be at delivering HIV-specific antigens to the body to trigger an immune response.
IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC) Executive Director of Vaccine Design and Scripps Research Professor William Schief, Ph.D and colleagues developed the HIV-antigens that are being tested in IAVI G002. Dr. Schief and his team have been pioneers in the development of a HIV vaccine, specifically when it comes to the germline targeting approach to vaccine design.
“Naive B cells display antibodies encoded by unmutated, or “germline” genes. A series of vaccines, which would begin with the prime-boost immunogens tested here, may be able to target specific naive B cells and induce them to mature into bnAb-producing ones. In the lab, bnAbs have been shown to neutralize a broad range of HIV variants,” according to Moderna’s news release.
In 2021 Dr. Schief announced that the “proof of concept” clinical trial IVAI G001 results displayed that HIV antigens induced an immune response in 97% of participants. IAVI intertwining Moderna’s mRNA applied science with their “promising” germline targeting approach has aided in advancing IAVI to the next stage in HIV vaccine research.
“We’ve seen promising proof of concept for germline targeting in IAVI G001, and this trial lets us take that approach to the next stage,” Dr. Schief said. “What’s more, we’ve been able to expedite production of clinical trial material at a remarkably rapid pace because of Moderna’s technology.”
This is a major step for HIV research, and if successful can make a huge global impact. According to HIV.gov, as of 2020 37.7 million people around the world have the sexually transmitted virus, and over 53% of the HIV carriers were women and girls.