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New experimental HIV vax gets immune response

by Jericho Zafra

IN time for the celebration of World HIV/AIDS awareness month, a new trial found that a Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) vaccine candidate stimulated the antibodies against the syndrome in 97 percent of participants. 

The peer-reviewed journal Science revealed the results of a phase one IAVI G001 clinical trial involving the vaccine, which showed a “favorable safety profile.” It generated HIV antibodies in 35 out of 36 (participants living with HIV), the study said.

HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that an immune system produces if a person has an HIV infection.

“The data we are publishing in Science demonstrates for the first time that one can design a vaccine that elicits made-to-order antibodies in humans. We specified in advance certain molecular properties of the antibodies that we wanted to elicit, and the results of this trial show that our vaccine antigen consistently induced precisely those types of antibodies,” co-senior author William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, said in a statement. 

IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center developed the vaccine antigen for the phase one trial.

Also included in the Science study is a detailed immunological analysis of the vaccine response, it said.

The analysis of the study demonstrated “clinical proof of concept” for the germline-targeting vaccine design priming strategy. The germline-targeting strategy supports the progress of bolstering treatments to produce a certain type of broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV. It also stimulates the implementation of the germline-targeting system to other targets in HIV and other pathogens, it noted.

“We believe this vaccine design strategy will be essential to make an HIV vaccine and may help the field create vaccines for other difficult pathogens,” said Schief.

“Through the close-knit collaboration of many different scientists, disciplines, and institutions, we are that much closer to designing an effective vaccine that could help end the HIV pandemic,” said Mark Feinberg, MD, Ph.D., president, and CEO of IAVI.  

According to the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, approximately 38.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV, while 650,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2021.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health said there were 1,347 Filipinos who were confirmed to be HIV-positive and reported to the HIV/AIDS and Antiretroviral Therapy Registry of the Philippines last September 2022. Between January 1984 and September 2022, there were 105,794 documented cases of HIV in the country, which resulted in 6,183 deaths.

A 2020 report from the DOH noted that the Philippines has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific region, with a 237 percent rise in annual new HIV infections from 2010 to 2020. If the rapid growth is maintained by the country, the DOH said people living with HIV will triple by 2030, with an estimated 330,000 cases.

PLHIV patients can be treated with antiretroviral therapy. This therapy can lessen a patient’s viral load to an undetectable level – this means they cannot spread the disease to other people. 

For HIV prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is available to ward off HIV infection.

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