Can HIV infection be prevented? First HIV mRNA vaccine study begins in San Antonio history

SAN ANTONIO*This article originally appeared on the UT Health San Antonio Newsroom website and was reposted on courtesy of UT Health.

The University of Texas San Antonio Health Sciences Center and clinical partner University Health will soon begin a Phase 1 clinical research study of an HIV vaccine candidate produced by Moderna. This will be San Antonio’s first-ever study of an HIV mRNA vaccine.

The study, which will recruit up to 15 patients locally, is sponsored by IAVI, a global non-profit scientific research organization. UT Health Science Center San Antonio, University Health, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, George Washington University and Emory University are the trial sites, and Moderna is supplying the vaccine. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund research into the vaccine candidate.

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“We are looking for healthy volunteers who are passionate about contributing to the science of HIV vaccine development,” said local principal investigator Barbara Taylor, MD, MS, assistant dean and associate professor of infectious diseases at the Center for health sciences Joe R. and Teresa Lozano. Long School of Medicine. Dr. Taylor is also a clinician and treats patients at University Health. Volunteers will be enrolled for periods ranging from six to 11 months depending on the study arm to which they are randomized. They will be compensated for their time. Outpatient examinations and blood tests will be carried out at the university hospital to measure the effects of the vaccine.

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“The strategy under consideration involves two mRNA vaccines, a prime and a boost,” Dr. Taylor said. “IAVI has already completed a first-in-man trial with a protein-based version of the first. The second shot, the boost, is tested for the first time in humans in our study.

The objective of the study at the San Antonio site is to demonstrate the safety of the priming and booster dose delivered by the mRNA of the candidate vaccine against HIV. The study is evaluating the immune response to different parts of the vaccine, in particular the development of responses that could create broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAB). The ultimate goal is the development of a series of candidate vaccines that prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. A globally effective HIV vaccine could reduce infection rates and prevent illness and death from the disease caused by HIV, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

No person at risk of contracting HIV will be registered and no pregnant women can be included.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the safety and efficacy of messenger RNA vaccines. Much like a recipe for a chef, these vaccines provide instructions (mRNA) to cells in the body on how to make a harmless protein. The resulting protein particle stimulates an immune response. Once the particle is made, the cells suppress the mRNA instructions, but the now-learned immune response remains.

“For many of us, one of the few bright lights of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the demonstration of the usefulness of mRNA technology,” Dr. Taylor said. “We’ve seen it work for COVID and it’s been really amazing, but it doesn’t have to stop at COVID. We can take this new strategy and apply it to a sadly old and difficult to solve problem, HIV.

For more information and to volunteer, visit or call 210-469-3206.

Copyright 2020 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

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