First-in-Human Clinical Trial Supports HIV Vaccine Approach by IAVI and Scripps Research; Experimental Vaccine Primes Immune System As First Stage in Production of “Broadly Neutralizing” Antibodies Directed at Difficult-to-Access Conserved Epitopes

A phase 1 clinical trial testing a novel vaccine approach to prevent HIV has produced promising results, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) ( and Scripps Research announced on February 3, 2021. (See video summary at Researchers reported that the vaccine showed success in stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to start the process of generating antibodies against the fast-mutating virus; the targeted response was detected in 97 percent of participants who received the vaccine. "This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well," says William Schief, PhD, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and Executive Director of Vaccine Design at IAVI's Neutralizing Antibody Center, whose laboratory developed the vaccine. "With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans. We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens." Dr. Schief presented the results on behalf of the study team at the Fourth International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) virtual conference ( on February 3, 2021. The study sets the stage for additional clinical trials that will seek to refine and extend the approach--with the long-term goal of creating a safe and effective HIV vaccine. As a next step, IAVI and Scripps Research are partnering with the biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine that harnesses the approach to produce the same beneficial immune cells.
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