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New HIV Vaccine Induces Immunological Response in an Early Clinical Trial

In a Phase 1 trial, an experimental HIV vaccine was reported to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies in a small sample of volunteers. The results indicate that a two-dose schedule of the vaccine, administered eight weeks apart, may elicit immunological responses against the human immunodeficiency virus.

The clinical trial findings, published in the journal Science on World AIDS Day, provide "clinical proof of concept" in favor of designing boosting regimens to generate immune responses against HIV infection, which has no cure and may cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, often known as AIDS.

According to the researchers from Scripps Research, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, the National Institutes of Health, and other institutions in the United States and Sweden, the vaccine, called eOD-GT8 60mer, had a "favorable safety profile" and induced broadly neutralizing antibodies in 97%, or all but one, of the 36 recipients.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system to aid in the fight against diseases. Broadly neutralizing antibodies are known to neutralize many genetic variations of HIV, but they have been challenging to elicit by vaccination.

The researchers noted, "Learning how to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against pathogens with significant antigenic variety, such as HIV, influenza, hepatitis C virus, or the family of betacoronaviruses, provides a big challenge for rational vaccine design." "One possible way to overcome this challenge is germline-targeting vaccine design."

The germline-targeting eOD-GT8 60mer vaccine candidate was developed to stimulate the formation of broadly neutralizing antibodies by targeting and activating the appropriate antibody-producing cells.

Last year, more than 38 million individuals worldwide were living with HIV or AIDS. According to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, more than 20 HIV vaccine clinical studies are now underway throughout the globe.

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