Experimental mRNA-based HIV vaccines enter human trials

March 18, 2022
Experimental mRNA-based HIV vaccines enter human trials

Biotechnology company Moderna Inc. (Moderna) has commenced a Phase 1 human trial testing three different mRNA vaccines that targets HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). The success of the “safe and highly effective” COVID-19 vaccines enabled this opportunity, run in association with The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US.

The idea this time is similar: just as mRNA COVID-19 vaccines train the immune system to respond to the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, so will the experimental vaccines focus on the HIV equivalent of the spike protein antigen target, known as an envelope glycoprotein trimer. And, because the protein on the surface of HIV particles is much more complex than the coronavirus spike protein, Moderna has developed three different mRNA formulations, each encoding for a slightly different protein architecture.

The Phase 1 trial – the second such trial launched by Moderna this year – will enroll around 100 healthy, HIV-negative adults. Each subject will receive three doses of their assigned mRNA formulation over a six-month period. It is hoped one of the three formulations will have demonstrated both safety and robust immune responses by mid-2023 so Phase 2 trials can commence.

An earlier trial that began in January is using a novel vaccine technique called germline targeting designed to specifically target naive immune B cells and help induce them into the broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAbs) that target and destroy HIV. Moderna is collaborating with IAVI (the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative) for this trial which is also expected to run until mid-2023.

“With the launch of our second HIV vaccine trial, we are advancing our strategy to utilise multiple mRNA encoded native-like HIV trimers and leverage the power of our mRNA platform to accelerate the discovery of a protective HIV vaccine,” said Stephen Hodge, President, Moderna.

Moderna is additionally investigating mRNA vaccines targeting influenza, cytomegalovirus (CMV), the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), the herpes simplex virus, the varicella-zoster virus, and a novel cancer vaccine as part of their research pipeline.

Read: Scientists advance therapeutic strategy to potentially eliminate HIV

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Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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