On Monday, March 14, the biotech company Moderna announced that the first participant had been dosed with a new vaccine that aims to protect against HIV. The participant is enrolled in an open-label, multicenter, Phase 1 clinical trial for the vaccine that is designed to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Moderna, who is well known for its COVID-19 vaccine, is built upon an mRNA technology platform. The company currently has over 40 separate vaccines in its pipeline, of which close to 10 are in clinical trials. The company’s vaccines treat a wide range of diseases including various types of cancer. Additionally, the company is currently in clinical trials with two separate HIV vaccines.
The HIV vaccine that begun testing this week isd unique in that it targets HIV envelope trimers via mRNA. HIV, like other viruses, is an enveloped virus but the variability of the HIV envelope and the way it interacts with hosts cells makes HIV particularly difficult to treat. However, research from the company, which was published last year in the journal nature medicine, showed that the mRNA vaccine that targeted HIV envelope proteins led to a broad neutralization of the virus, and a significant reduced risk of infection of HIV in experimental animals exposed to the virus. With this information, the company moved to clinical trials in humans.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the disease has killed over 36 million people. And the disease continues to spread, with an estimated 1.5 million people being infected with HIV in the year 2020 alone. Once an individual is infected, the virus can attack the body’s immune system and lead to AIDS. There is currently no effective cure for HIV, but there are many treatments which help to reduce or even eliminate the risk of transmission in affected individuals. However, many experts believe that an effective vaccine against HIV will be critical for ridding the world of the virus.
Dr. Stephen Hoge, President of Moderna, said that the development of an HIV vaccine has been difficult to achieve, but his company believes that mRNA technology offers an opportunity for a new approache to this challenge. He added, “with the launch of our second HIV vaccine trial, we are advancing our strategy to utilize multiple mRNA encoded native-like HIV trimers and leverage the power of our mRNA platform to accelerate the discovery of a protective HIV vaccine.” The end results from the ongoing clinical of this HIV vaccine are expected early next year.