Moving toward a much needed effective HIV vaccine

AMSTERDAM — July 24, 2018

Developing an effective HIV vaccine is the “key step forward” we have been pursuing as a global community to halt one of humankind’s most formidable foes. The HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) is the world’s largest publicly funded collaboration facilitating the development of vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS and has, together with global partners, demonstrated significant scientific progress in pursuit of an effective HIV vaccine.

An estimated 35 million lives have been claimed since the HIV/AIDS pandemic began more than three decades ago.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 37.6 million people were living with HIV in 2016, and 1.8 million new infections were documented in the same year.

Statistics reveal a hard truth. There are an estimated 5 000 new HIV infections daily around the world. This statistic includes 160 000 children under the age of 15 years, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also estimated that only 60% of people with HIV know their status and that the remaining 14 million (40%) still need to access HIV testing services. The United Nations Women reveal that 58% of new HIV infections among young persons aged 15-24 in 2015 occurred among adolescent girls and young women. Key populations at risk of acquiring HIV, irrespective of epidemic type or local context, include men who have sex with men, people in prisons and other closed settings, sex workers and their clients, transgender people and people who inject drugs.  Clearly, additional prevention tools are still needed.

The HVTN is the global leader in the development of HIV vaccines.  Through an inclusive strategy, and by forging in-country relationships on four continents at 44 clinical trial sites, the network, which is headquartered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is working collaboratively with global communities and partners in the search for an effective HIV vaccine.  Primarily funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the network currently manages 18 active clinical trials of which three are large-scale in-human efficacy trials.

 

HVTN joins another global network to lead pioneering prevention studies

Three years ago, the HVTN joined forces with the NIH-funded HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) to embark on a scientific journey to lead the precedent-setting antibody mediated prevention (AMP) studies that will determine if a broadly neutralizing antibody (bnAb) called VRC01, delivered to the human body through an intravenous infusion, will prevent the acquisition of HIV. If prevention is observed, it will be possible to determine the level of neutralization associated with protection; essentially, how much of the bnAb is needed to protect someone from HIV.   These clinical trials, which utilize an antibody isolated and developed at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center, are a global first. The two phase 2b clinical trials have respectively recruited and enrolled participants who are vulnerable to HIV infection from communities in the United States, Brazil, Peru, Switzerland, and sub-Saharan Africa.

 

HVTN demonstrates scientific progress

In a recent press statement based on published data, the HVTN described how an HIV vaccine regimen tested in its HVTN 100 trial, which enrolled 252 HIV-negative adults, produced a strong immune response; an early indication that protection from HIV acquisition is possible. The HVTN 100 trial results were used to initiate the first advanced-phase large-scale HIV vaccine efficacy trial in South Africa, HVTN 702, currently enrolling 5 400 HIV-negative men and women aged 18-35 years.

“We continue to demonstrate an unwavering pursuit to influence the scientific trajectory in HIV prevention science,” says Wakefield, director of External Relations at the HVTN. “Progress such as the combination treatments, new technologies and candidate vaccines that could make a difference in the lives of people at risk of HIV acquisition has been as a direct result of relationships between the HVTN, global communities and other key partners, built on trust.”

 

HVTN collaborates globally to advance scientific HIV prevention research agenda

Reaffirming the need for global public/private partnerships in the fight against the HIV epidemic, the HVTN through its global clinical trial site footprint and scientific expertise joins the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies to test a “mosaic” vaccine regimen in a new phase 2b proof-of-concept study called HVTN 705/HPX2008, or Imbokodo. The trial will enroll 2 600 young women aged 18-35 years in five sub-Saharan African countries to assess if the vaccine regimen can protect against a wide variety of global HIV strains.

“We are writing a compelling story in every small step of scientific progress towards discovering an effective HIV vaccine,” says Larry Corey, M.D., principal investigator of the HVTN, virologist and faculty member at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

 

Economic mathematical model demonstrates potential benefits of an HIV vaccination campaign

Projections, recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrated that five-dose series HIV vaccine campaigns rolled out every two years, in a country with the highest number of daily new HIV infections (South Africa), would provide great health benefits and be potentially cost-effective.  Projected estimations demonstrate that South Africa could potentially avoid over 44 000 deaths from HIV in the next ten years and prevent an estimated 3.9 million new HIV infections between 2017 and 2027.

No “magic bullet” can curb the trajectory of the epidemic.  Global communities need an HIV prevention modality that is not dependent on human behavior.  As the mortality, incidence and prevalence statistics of the epidemic vary from country to country, the resounding message remains: an effective HIV vaccine, when discovered, must be accessible and taken to scale.


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About Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first National Cancer Institute-funded cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
 

CONTACT
Media Relations
Aziel Gangerdine
HVTN: Director of Communications
C 206.384.0945 / O 206.667.7875
agangerd@fredhutch.org