Moderna to launch New HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials

Moderna, the maker of the successful Covid-19 vaccine, has begun an early stage human clinical trial of their HIV vaccine. The vaccine will use mRNA technology.

In the press release, the biotechnology company, Moderna, will partner with a non-profit scientific research organization, IAVI (International AIDS Vaccine Initiative). IAVI is a global public-private institution working towards the development of vaccines to treat or prevent HIV/AIDS. Bill & Melinda Gates foundation funded the trial.

Moderna announced that they have administered the first doses of the vaccines in a clinical trail of the HIV vaccine antigen at George Washington University (GWU) School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.

In the phase one trial, code named IAVI G002, they tested the hypothesis that sequential administration of priming and boosting HIV immunogens delivered by messenger RNA (mRNA) can induce specific classes of B-cell responses and guide their early maturation toward broadly neutralizing antibody (bnAb) development. The goal of HIV vaccination is the induction of antibody (bnAb), therefore it is the crucial first step in the process.

William Schief, Ph.D., professor at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC), and his colleagues originally developed the HIV vaccine antigen. Also, scientist teams at IAVI and Scripps Research developed the immunogens, but Moderna’s mRNA technology will deliver it in the body.

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President and CEO of IAVI, Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., and the President of Moderna, Stephen Hoge believe the partnership and mRNA technology been deployed will cause rapid progress in the vaccine’s success.

The Schief Lab developed an approach for vaccine design called germline targeting. Several vaccines which start with prime-boost immunogens (used in this clinical trial) are used to target specific naïve B cells inducing them to mature into bnAb-producing ones. These antibodies, bnAb, have been found to neutralize a good number of HIV variant in the lab.

A particular bnAb, VRC01 which was targeted in this clinical trial has been found to neutralize HIV strains, therefore protecting humans against infection.

IAVI will sponsor the IAVI G002 project scheduled to hold in four major sites: GWU School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and the University of Texas-Health Science Center at San Antonio.

56 HIV-negative volunteers will partake in the clinical trial. 48 of them will receive one or two doses of eOD-GT8 60mer mRNA vaccine, while 32 will receive the boost Core-g28v2 60mer mRNA vaccine. 8 volunteers will receive boost immunogen alone. They will monitor the immune responses of all the volunteers for 6 months.

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