Called a tetravalent mosaic, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will initiate an experimental HIV vaccine in the U.S. and Europe in a move toward introducing the first immunization against the deadly disease. 3,800 targeted participants (males who have sex with males) will receive the regimen of injections in the study planned for later in 2019. The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network of testing sites will be collaborating with the U.S. pharma’s Janssen unit.
Published in Bloomberg by John Lauerman, we note that investigators have yet to develop a vaccine against the deadly disease that still takes nearly 1 million lives worldwide per year.
The unit of J&J seeks to develop a vaccine that can work in a diverse range of population worldwide infected with multiple strains of the rapidly changing virus. Dan Barouch, a Harvard Medical School professor whose research made the vaccine possible, noted that the approach “brings us one step closer to covering the vast diversity of viruses worldwide.” He continued, “For medical and global public health reasons, it’s better to have a vaccine that works in multiple parts of the world.”
U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity, which develops protective products for soldiers, will collaborate on this study, reports Hanneke Schuitemaker, head of viral vaccine discovery and translational medicine for Janssen. She noted, “The aim of the company is to make HIV something of the past, and work on the vaccine is part of that.”
HIV Vaccine Trials Network
The HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) is the world’s largest publicly funded multi-disciplinary international collaboration facilitating the development of vaccines to prevent HIV/AIDS. The HVTN conducts all phases of clinical trials, from evaluating experimental vaccines for safety and immunogenicity to testing vaccine efficacy.
Funding is provided by public and private sources for the network including the NIAID (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Network’s clinical research sites are located at leading research institutions in over 30 cities on five continents. Internationally renowned researchers in HIV vaccines and prevention lead these units and contribute to the Network’s scientific agenda. The network’s headquarters are at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.
The J&J vaccine has four components that target multiple strains of the HIV. Dr. Barouch has been developing the vaccine for about 15 years. Barouch and Bette Korber, a computational biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, designed an optimal set of “mosaic” proteins as part of the vaccine that would increase defenses against a wide array of strains. By using an altered cold virus to make the proteins raise the immunity, the vaccine participants will receive six injections in four sessions.