HIV Vaccine Advances to Early Trial

Novel technique leverages limited DNA sequences from HIV to spark a priming effect within the patient’s immune response.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts are launching a phase 1 trial to determine the safety of a potential vaccine for HIV.

The vaccine was developed by Shan Lu, MD, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at UMass. The trial will be administered by the HIV Vaccine Trial Network (HVTN), which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Lu told MD Magazine his vaccine is different from most traditional vaccines because it is a DNA vaccine. Lu’s particular technique leverages limited DNA sequences from HIV, in order to spark a “priming” effect within the patient’s immune response. That initial priming is followed by a protein vaccine, matched to the proteins produced by the DNA, and administered alongside the adjuvant GLA-SE.

One group in the study will be given the priming-booster regimen, while another group will be given the DNA vaccine and the protein vaccine simultaneously.

Lu said the priming/boosting technique is a novel approach. He said the DNA/protein vaccine combination dose has been tested, but only a few times. Lu said another distinguishing facet of his vaccine is the use of a polyvalent formulation.

“Most people don’t think a cocktail with limited numbers of HIV antigens will be able to cover the diversity and constantly mutated viruses, but our preclinical and phase 1 clinical trial data showed that it is possible to elicit quite broad antibody responses to cover the diversity of HIV-1 viruses,” he said. “Recent data from other HIV vaccine groups also have data to support such idea.”

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