USA – Moderna has begun testing an HIV vaccine that employs the same ground-breaking mRNA technology as its Covid vaccine.

The US pharmaceutical giant its vaccine. The first participants were dosed last month at George Washington University, according to officials.

Participants in the trial come from four different institutions: the George Washington University School of Medicine, the Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

The virus is primarily transmitted through unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy.

Over 36 million deaths have been attributed to AIDS worldwide since its discovery, and as of 2020, approximately 37 million people were living with the disease, primarily in eastern and southern Africa.

HIV currently has no cure. Although there are prevention drugs, they must be taken on a daily basis. A one-time shot that provides lifetime protection could be a game changer for a disease that has claimed millions of lives.

The new trial, which is being funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has enlisted the help of 56 HIV-negative volunteers in order to study the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

Forty-eight volunteers will receive at least one dose of the primary vaccine, with 32 receiving a booster as well. The remaining eight will only get the booster vaccine.

IAVI and Scripps Research developed the immunogens in the experimental vaccine, which will be delivered via Moderna’s mRNA technology.

Moderna is testing two different vaccines, both of which are designed to instruct the body’s cells to produce a protein found on the surface of HIV particles.

This should train the immune system to recognize that protein and produce neutralizing antibodies that protect against a variety of HIV strains.

Moderna is also working on an mRNA vaccine for seasonal flu, as well as a Covid and flu booster vaccine that can be given once a year.

Despite 40 years of research since the discovery of HIV, a vaccine has remained elusive. However, scientists around the world, including those at Oxford University, are testing vaccines in the hopes of preventing infection and curing the disease.

Moderna’s trial, which is being conducted in collaboration with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), will determine whether its vaccine induces neutralizing antibodies.

The vaccine design approach is known as germline targeting, which involves stimulating a person’s unmutated white blood cells to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAb), which have been shown to neutralize a wide range of HIV variants and protect against infection.

According to Moderna, the goal of HIV vaccination is to induce bnAbs, and the phase I trial is the first step in that process.

The trial of one mRNA vaccine, called mRNA-1644, conducted by IAVI last year found that the jab elicited an antibody response in 97% of participants.

The most recent trial will look at the efficacy of this vaccine as well as whether a booster shot called mRNA-1644v2-Core strengthens the immune response.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE