Moderna has announced the first patients have received their shots in a clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine against HIV.
The biotechnology company teamed up with the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop the potential vaccine candidate.
The shot uses the same mRNA technology as Moderna’s highly effective COVID-19 vaccine.
The mRNA technology teaches the human body how to make proteins that trigger immune responses.
Moderna said the first participants in the Phase I trial got doses at a medical university in Washington DC this month.
Researchers want the vaccine to induce specific white blood cells, called B cells, within the participants. The B cells then develop into what are known as broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAb) against HIV.
Moderna explained bnAbs are a major goal of HIV vaccination, and this is the first step in that process.
Scientific teams at IAVI developed the immunogens, molecules that elicit an immune response. They’re delivering them using Moderna’s mRNA technology.
IAVI CEO Dr Mark Feinberg said the researchers are advancing a “new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform.”
“The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging,” he said.
“Having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”
Previous HIV vaccine candidates sadly weren’t successful
Even after decades of research, no successful HIV vaccine has ever emerged. While several candidates have made it to clinical trials, they all failed in later stages.
Thanks to major medical advances, HIV is now a manageable chronic disease.
For people living with HIV, the modern medication reduces viral load to a level so low the virus is “undetectable” and can’t be transmitted to sexual partners.
Also, HIV negative people at risk of contracting the virus can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to dramatically lower their risk of infection.
In both cases, researchers have made recent advances in long-acting injectables to replace daily pill regimens.
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