Researchers are seeing promising results in the early stages of a clinical trial for a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS if left untreated, Good Morning America reports. According to the outlet, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California are collaborating with companies like Moderna, which created a vaccine against COVID-19, on the preventative medicine.
“These are very early studies. But nonetheless, they are provocative,” Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, who was not involved in the clinical trial, told GMA.
According to the outlet, researches are looking into how mRNA technology, which was used in developing the COVID-19 vaccine, could be used to further develop a vaccine against HIV.
Although the vaccine still needs to be tested in larger studies and the clinical trials are only in their early stages, the drug’s promising results are a huge win for researchers, who have been working for over 30 years to create an HIV vaccine.
“This is a very innovative approach to developing a vaccine that hasn’t been done before,” Schaffner adding, describing the new vaccine candidate as “kind of a culmination of 21st century science.”
A vaccine has been difficult for researchers to create because of the HIV virus’ rapid mutation. The virus also has a variety of different subtypes, meaning that a vaccine created to prevent one subtype may not work against another. However, the vaccine that researchers are currently trialing addresses this issue by helping the body to create “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” which could fight off multiple HIV variants and mutations.
“[This] basically means these antibodies are able to potently block infection of diverse HIV variants, and that is the key goal,” Dr. Mark Feinberg, the CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said.
GMA reports that the vaccine’s phase one clinical trial is currently underway. In the trial, a total of 48 healthy adults received two doses of either the vaccine or a placebo spaced two months apart. Researchers say preliminary data showed that 97 percent of adults who received the vaccine had immune systems that may be able to create the broadly neutralizing antibodies.
“The broadly neutralizing antibody is important because the virus can mutate so rapidly that they need something that’s a shotgun, not a rifle... to prevent a whole variety of different kinds of HIV configurations,” Schaffner added.