Researchers at Oxford University have launched the first phase of clinical trials of a new HIV vaccine called HIVconsvX. Scientists hope that the drug will be effective against all strains of the virus. The vaccine is being developed as part of the European HIV Vaccine Initiative, which aims to study how inducing T-cell antibodies and targeting them to vulnerable clusters of HIV can help fight infection. Previously, HIV vaccines were developed to induce antibodies to B cells. Scientists plan to report the results by April 2022.
The developers used bioinformatics to find out which parts of HIV proteins are less prone to mutations (and, consequently, to escape from immunity) and incorporated them into the vaccine. T-cells, "feeling" these areas, "remember" them and when they encounter a real virus, they will quickly destroy the infected cells.
In the course of research, scientists will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine. At the initial stage of the experiment, the first dose of HIV vaccine will be given to 13 HIV-negative participants aged 18 to 65 years who are not at high risk of HIV infection. An additional dose will be given in four weeks. At later stages, scientists plan to involve people living with HIV to participate in the experiment. Similar tests will be conducted in Europe, Africa and the United States.
According to the University of Oxford, the developed vaccine will be the "best solution" to eradicate the AIDS epidemic. "Even in the context of enhanced antiretroviral treatment and prevention, the HIV vaccine remains the best option and is likely to be a key element of the AIDS eradication program," said Tomasz Hanke, a professor of immunology at the Jenner Institute and lead researcher.
"An effective HIV vaccine has been elusive for 40 years. This is the first trial in a series of evaluations of this new vaccination strategy in both HIV-negative people for prevention and in people living with HIV for treatment, ”said Paola Chiccone, a senior fellow at the Jenner Institute at Oxford University.
The study authors explained that other potential HIV vaccines have tried to boost a patient's antibodies through B cells, but HIVconsvX activates the body's T cells, which have a powerful ability to kill pathogens. They are aimed at attacking the weak points of the virus.
The University of Oxford also participated in the development of a vaccine against coronavirus, together with AstraZeneca. The success of the COVID-19 vaccine also inspired them to develop an HIV vaccine.