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New HIV Vaccine Shows 97% Success Rate In First Human Trials

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There has recently been an important step towards treating HIV. A new experimental vaccine has been tested in human trials. The vaccine was developed by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research. The vaccines are developed to trigger the production of rare immune cells that can destroy HIV. The initial results are promising — 97% of those that received the vaccine generated HIV-fighting antibodies.

This research has global implications.

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"Given the urgent need for an HIV vaccine to rein in the global epidemic, we think these results will have broad implications for HIV vaccine researchers as they decide which scientific directions to pursue. The collaboration among individuals and institutions that made this important and exceptionally complex clinical trial so successful will be tremendously enabling to accelerate future HIV vaccine research," Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, said in a press statement.

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The vaccine was tested against a placebo.

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Forty-eight people participated in the study. Half of the participants received the vaccine and the other half received a placebo. They received two doses two months apart. Of those that received the vaccine, 97% developed the targeted antibodies needed to respond to an HIV infection. This is particularly exciting because these rare immune cells can respond to diverse strains of HIV. A limiting factor to developing a vaccine in the past has been how quickly HIV evolves into different strains to evade the immune system.

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The benefits are not limited to HIV.

"This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well," says William Schief, an immunologist at Scripps Research.

"With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans. We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens."

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This landmark study provides the science to improve all vaccines.

"This is a tremendous achievement for vaccine science as a whole," explained Dennis Burton, the chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research. "This clinical trial has shown that we can drive immune responses in predictable ways to make new and better vaccines, and not just for HIV. We believe this type of vaccine engineering can be applied more broadly, bringing about a new day in vaccinology."

But, this study is just the first step. The researchers will continue their work by partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Moderna. They believe that this vaccine technology can be applied to influenza, dengue, Zika, and hepatitis C viruses, as well as the malaria parasite.

h/t: IAVI

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