Clinical human trials are set to begin this week for new HIV Vaccines being developed by Moderna Pharmaceutical Company. Two vaccines are being trialled and both work with the same mRNA technology currently being used for COVID19 vaccines.
The two HIV vaccine candidates, mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-Core, have both cleared initial safety testing. The randomised trials will include 56 HIV-negative participants aged 18 to 56. Phase one of the study aims to test the vaccines’ safety, as well as collect basic data on whether they’re inducing any kind of immunity.
The trials, which are set to begin on August 19th, will conclude in spring of 2023.
“The mRNA platform makes it easy to develop vaccines against variants because it just requires an update to the coding sequences in the mRNA that code for the variant,” Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease expert who chairs the HIV Medicine Association, told Verywell Health.
“Based on its success in protecting against COVID-19, I am hopeful that mRNA technology will revolutionize our ability to develop vaccines against other pathogens, like HIV and influenza.”
Trial Comes After Decades Of Research
If phase one of the study is successful, a second and third phase will be undertaken to see exactly how effective these may be.
But how exactly would these vaccines work? It all comes down to a piece of messenger RNA that codes a part of the virus in question and is enfolded into a vector. Once injected, the mRNA travels inside cells, where the cells’ genetic machinery produces the virus protein. The immune system is then trained to recognize the virus based on that protein so that when it encounters the virus, it attacks it.
News of this most recent trail by Moderna comes after decades of research by numerous pharmaceutical companies into developing a successful vaccine for HIV, a search which has only gained paced in recent years.
During the 2000’s a trial vaccine which was developed in Thailand was reported to have reduced infections by around 30 percent, although the trial results were considered controversial by some scientists. Other vaccine trials undertaken during this time were pulled after it was revealed that these vaccines may have instead increased the risk of catching HIV rather than preventing infections.
While leaps and bounds have been made in terms of treating those who are HIV Positive with medication which effectively eradicates any chance of transmission between sexual partners, it still likely to be many years if ever, that a successful HIV vaccine is approved for widespread use.
“The only real hope we have of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic is through the deployment of an effective HIV vaccine, one that is achieved through the work of partners, advocates, and community members joining hands to do together what no one individual or group can do on its own,” wrote Mark Feinberg, president of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in June at the 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic.