US NIH rolls out clinical trial of HIV vaccine

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The Phase 1 clinical study of an anti-HIV vaccine has begun, according to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The innovative vaccine, VIR-1388, is renowned for its security and capacity to induce an immune response in people that is unique to HIV.

In order to stop HIV from causing chronic infection, VIR-1388 instructs the immune system to make T cells that can recognise the virus and activate an immunological response.

“US NIH scientific advances continue to be vital to achieving our national goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2030,” Assistant Secretary of Health, Rachel Levine, posted on X.

“This HIV vaccine clinical trial is another step toward our bold goal,” she added.

In order to transfer the HIV vaccine material to the immune system without infecting the trial participants, the vaccine will use a weakened variant of the cytomegalovirus (CMV) as a vector.

For centuries, CMV has been prevalent in a large portion of the world’s population. The majority of CMV carriers have no symptoms and are not aware that they have the virus.

CMV has the potential to deliver and then safely assist the body in maintaining HIV vaccine material for a long length of time, perhaps overcoming the decreasing immunity seen with more short-lived vaccine vectors. CMV remains detectable in the body for life.The experiment, sponsored by San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology, will enrol 95 HIV-negative volunteers at six sites in the United States and four in South Africa.

Four trial arms—three of which will each receive a different dose of the vaccine, and one of which will receive a placebo—will be randomly assigned to participants. The study will only include participants who have CMV that is already asymptomatic in order to maximise participant safety.

Initial findings are anticipated in late 2024, and volunteers will be followed up to three years after receiving their first dose of the vaccine as part of an optional long-term sub-study, according to the NIH.

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