Researchers could be one step closer to an HIV vaccine. This one uses mRNA technology.
Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology is being developed and tested in a way that makes strides towards an HIV vaccine, according to a Moderna press release. Biotechnology company Moderna has partnered with IAVI, which is a nonprofit scientific research organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to apply mRNA technology to the HIV cause.
The phase 1 clinical trial, called IAVI G002, will build upon the response observed in a proof-of-concept trial and determine whether HIV immunogens delivered via mRNA can induce specific B-cell responses to manipulate their maturation toward neutralizing antibody development (bnAb), which is widely considered a goal of HIV vaccination. The press release said that this is the first step in the process of creating an HIV vaccine.
IAVI G002 will enroll 56 healthy, HIV-negative adult volunteers across 4 sites across the United States. Of the total number of participants, 48 will receive 1 or 2 doses of eOD-GT8 60mer mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1644) and 32 of the volunteers will receive the boost Core-g28v2 60mer mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1644v2-Core). The study authors plan to have 8 volunteers receive the boost alone and all participants will be observed for safety for 6 months post-vaccination. The participants’ immune responses will be measured in molecular detail to determine the success of the targeted responses.
Moderna’s mRNA technology will be used to deliver the immunogens, which were developed by teams at IAVI and Scripps Research, the announcement added.
“We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, president and CEO of IAVI, said in the statement. “The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”
In the proof-of-concept trial, conducted in February 2021, a group of investigators from Scripps Research proved they could induce the appropriate B-bell response in 97 percent of patients, the release continued.
“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,” Feinberg said in a release at the time. “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.”
This approach could also be used to develop vaccines for a long list of other pathogens, including influenza, dengue, Zika, hepatitis C, and malaria, the statement noted. This technique was labeled “nimble” by the company statement, which highlighted the fact that this approach to vaccine design and testing could subtract years from a typically development timeline.
“We’ve seen promising proof of concept for germline targeting in IAVI G001, and this trial lets us take that approach to the next stage,” said William Schief, PhD, professor at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center. “What’s more, we’ve been able to expedite production of clinical trial material at a remarkably rapid pace because of Moderna’s technology.”