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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 15, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 24
NIH reports on experimental HIV vaccine
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NIH reports on experimental HIV vaccine

'Novel and potentially powerful,' agency says by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A 'novel and potentially powerful' experimental HIV vaccine has been developed, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) announced in a June 4 article in the journal Nature Medicine.

The vaccine is reportedly based on a particularly vulnerable site on the HIV protein where antibodies bind to its surface. The vaccine has elicited antibodies in mice, guinea pigs, and monkeys and is said to be able to neutralize dozens of HIV strains from around the world.

The researchers on the study were employed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and their colleagues.

'NIH scientists have used their detailed knowledge of the structure of HIV to find an unusual site of vulnerability on the virus and design a novel and potentially powerful vaccine,' said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. 'This elegant study is a potentially important step forward in the ongoing quest to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine.'

A preliminary human trial of the new vaccine regimen is anticipated to begin in the second half of 2019.

The NIH study reflects one of two approaches NIAID is pursuing to develop an HIV vaccine. In this approach, scientists first identify powerful HIV antibodies that can neutralize many strains of the virus, and then try to elicit those antibodies with a vaccine based on the structure of the HIV surface protein where the antibodies bind.

In other words, scientists start with a specific immune response and work to develop a vaccine that will induce it.

Another, more empirical approach to HIV vaccine development begins by evaluating the most encouraging vaccine candidates for efficacy in people through clinical trials. Then scientists try to build on successful trial results by examining blood and other clinical specimens from study participants who received the vaccine to identify the most promising parts of the immune response.

Researchers subsequently use this information to improve vaccination approaches for future trials. This method was used to develop the HIV vaccine regimen tested in several recent clinical trials - for example, the RV144 clinical trial and the HIV vaccine regimens currently under study in the HVTN 702 and Imbokodo clinical trials.

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