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Moderna to start human trials of a potentially revolutionary HIV vaccine

The trials could start as early as 19 August and are expected to run until 2023.

2021-08-18

Words: Alastair James; picture: Pexels

Moderna, which produced one of the Covid vaccines, could be about to start human trials for two of its HIV vaccines this week, according to the US National Institute of Health’s clinical trial registry.

The vaccines would use the same technology as the Covid vaccine produced by Moderna using a strand of mRNA and could provide a way of combatting the virus.

While many people have access to successful and vital treatments to prevent HIV infection, such as PrEP, this has the potential to dramatically change HIV treatment.

“All are welcome”

The trials could start as early as this week (Thursday 19 August) and run until 2023 according to the NIH and will involve 56 people aged 18-50. These trials can go ahead after Moderna’s vaccines passed safety tests earlier this year, after being tested on a handful of human volunteers.

Following the announcement, Matthew Hodson, the Executive Director of Aidsmap posted a link providing information on clinical trials and said there are approaches to vaccines at work adding: “All are welcome. We have some good reasons to be hopeful.”

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative says there are around 38 million people living with HIV/Aids in 2020 and that $29 billion is needed to respond to HIV/Aids by 2025. 

Attempts to develop a vaccine have proved difficult given the virus’ genetic variability and its ability to establish infection with 72 hours. Previously, vaccines using inactive forms of the virus have failed to produce any type of immune response.

The Moderna vaccines would work by providing an mRNA protein strand in the vaccine similar to that found in HIV that acts as a dummy so that the body can make antibodies to fight the virus. This (extremely simplified explanation) is how the Covid-19 vaccines are working.

The mRNA may also allow scientists to make tweaks to the vaccine more easily.

Speaking to Verywell Health in June, Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, the chair of the HIV Medicine Association said: “The mRNA platform makes it easy to develop vaccines against variants because it just requires an update to the coding sequences in the mRNA that code for the variant.

“Based on its success in protecting against COVID-19, I am hopeful that mRNA technology will revolutionize our ability to develop vaccines against other pathogens, like HIV and influenza.”

The news will provide hope to people after an epidemic that has raged for 40 years.

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