Announcements: AIDS

IAVI – International AIDS Vaccine Initiative   [to 20 May 2017]
May 18, 2017
Canadian Researcher Wins Grant to Explore Promising HIV Vaccine Candidate
Canadian Institutes of Health Research funds Gary Kobinger to develop HIV vaccine in partnership with IAVI.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has awarded a new CA$3.99 million grant to Dr. Gary Kobinger of Université Laval for work on a vaccine to prevent HIV infection.

This three-year grant supports a scientific collaboration between Kobinger and the Design and Development Lab, a state-of-the-art research facility in Brooklyn, New York, operated by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Led by Kobinger and IAVI’s Dr. Chris Parks, the respective Canadian and U.S. research teams aim to improve upon a promising HIV vaccine candidate designed by Parks, with the goal of advancing the candidate to clinical testing in human volunteers.

“We are encouraged by this support of Gary Kobinger’s work and the prospects of his collaboration with IAVI’s Design and Development Lab,” said Mark Feinberg, IAVI CEO. “The innovative work of the Kobinger lab provides a great illustration of how creative and insightful science can advance the global response to emerging infectious diseases, and exemplifies ways in which the benefits of research progress in one disease area can be translated to another, in this case, from an understanding of how to develop an effective Ebola vaccine to the ongoing search for an AIDS vaccine.”

Using a modified animal virus called Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) that does not cause disease in humans, the IAVI vaccine candidate delivers copies of a protein taken from HIV’s surface. Once inside the body, the protein stimulates protective immune defenses against HIV infection. Studies in animals to date have yielded encouraging results.

Kobinger’s team will further modify the IAVI candidate vaccine for greater efficacy and clinical testing. An expert in the Ebola virus, Kobinger helped develop the Ebola (rVSV-ZEBOV) vaccine, which to date has proven the most effective at preventing Ebola infection, and which also uses a VSV backbone…
NIH  [to 20 May 2017]
May 18, 2017
NIH statement on HIV Vaccine Awareness Day – 2017
— Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, NIAID and Carl W. Dieffenbach, Ph.D., Director, Division of AIDS, NIAID.
Much progress has been made in HIV/AIDS research since the disease was first recognized in 1981. Today, lifesaving antiretroviral therapies allow those living with HIV to enjoy longer, healthier lives — an outcome that once seemed unattainable. Research supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has proven that when antiretroviral therapy durably keeps HIV at undetectable levels, the risk that the treated individual will sexually transmit the virus to an HIV-negative partner is negligible. When implemented in communities, treatment as prevention is remarkably successful at preventing the spread of HIV infection. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is another prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take one pill a day to reduce their risk of acquiring the virus. This intervention is highly effective when individuals adhere to the drug regimen.

While these and other prevention tools have the power to dramatically decrease the incidence of HIV infection, a safe and effective vaccine would be transformative. More than two million new HIV infections occurred worldwide in 2015 alone, and this rate of infection has declined only slightly since 2010. A new National Institutes of Health-funded modeling study (link is external) suggests that a 50-percent effective preventative vaccine could reduce the number of people living with HIV by 36 percent globally over a period of 15 years. Together with the other medical and behavioral prevention modalities that have been proven to decrease the risk of acquiring HIV, a vaccine could change the epidemic’s trajectory, dramatically reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV.

Developing a safe and effective HIV vaccine is one of the most formidable challenges facing scientists today. HIV mutates rapidly, evading immune responses and thwarting the attempts of scientists to develop an effective vaccine. Only a minority of individuals living with HIV develop broadly neutralizing antibodies, a powerful type of antibody that can fight an array of HIV strains by binding to key sites on the virus. In those individuals who do develop such antibodies, they generally appear only after several years of infection, when the virus has already gained a strong foothold in the body.

Despite these challenges, scientists are working to develop a vaccine that may reduce the spread of HIV. On World AIDS Day 2016, NIAID and its partners launched HVTN 702, a phase 2b/3 HIV vaccine efficacy trial. This trial is the first HIV vaccine efficacy study to launch in 7 years, and is currently enrolling 5,400 men and women in South Africa between the ages of 18 and 35. This study will test an experimental vaccine regimen to see if it can extend and amplify the modest success of the vaccine candidate tested in RV144, a clinical trial in Thailand that showed a modest degree of efficacy in 2009.

Another component of the HIV vaccine research effort focuses on inducing the immune system to make the kind of broadly neutralizing antibodies that may protect people from HIV. The NIAID Vaccine Research Center and several NIAID grantees are at the vanguard of this effort.
Two multinational clinical trials testing an investigational anti-HIV broadly neutralizing antibody for preventing HIV infection began last year. Known as the AMP Studies, for antibody-mediated prevention, the trials will test whether giving people a broadly neutralizing HIV antibody as an intravenous infusion every 8 weeks is safe, tolerable and effective at preventing HIV infection among the study participants. With a projected enrollment of 4,200 men and women across three continents, the trials are designed to answer fundamental scientific questions for the fields of HIV prevention and vaccine research.

While the pursuit of a safe and effective HIV vaccine is challenging, this prevention strategy holds lifesaving potential and is NIAID’s highest priority for AIDS research. On this HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, we recognize and thank the thousands of HIV vaccine clinical trial volunteers, researchers, health professionals, activists and others who work together with us toward this goal.

May 18, 2017
Antibodies from Ebola survivor protect mice and ferrets against related viruses
— NIAID-funded study could lead to broad, versatile treatments for many different Ebolaviruses.

FDA-approved drug helps treat rare immunologic disease, study finds
May 17, 2017 — NIH co-funded clinical trial tested alternative treatment for eosinophilic syndrome.

UNAIDS  [to 20 May 2017]
Selected Press Releases & Updates
Myanmar launches new HIV strategic plan
The Ministry of Health and Sports of Myanmar launched the country’s latest five-year HIV plan on 17 May. The plan provides a road map on how to Fast-Track the national HIV response…
PhRMA    [to 20 May 2017]
May 15, 2017
ICYMI: New study shows medicines advance life expectancy for HIV patients
… A new study from the Antiretroviral Therapy Cohort Collaboration (ART-CC) found that HIV patients in Europe and North America treated with a combination of three or more antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines can achieve the same life expectancy of people without HIV. ART-CC estimates that a 20-year-old patient who began treatment with ART between 2008 and 2010 could now live to age 78 – the same life expectancy for the general U.S. population.
In a recent article in STAT, reflecting on the new research, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commented on the study: “We’re just getting better at what we do….We have better drugs… People are adhering better because they know these drugs really work.”…