A recent study published in the Journal Science described how it was working on a new design for HIV vaccine. The study led by the scientist William Schief of the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, and Shane Crotty of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, partly supported by National Institute of Health (NIH), found that a majority of people had a specific B cell that could be taught to respond to HIV proteins.

New HIV Vaccine

It had been theorized that specific precursors of human B cells could be taught to produce antibodies (bnAbs) that could kill HIV, and lead to an eventual trained immune system which could fend off virtually all HIV strains. This ‘training’ would involve injecting several vaccinations, each consisting of different HIV proteins that would push the immune system, step by step, towards a stronger position to fight off HIV.

In the latest work of Schief and his colleagues, they conducted modeling experiments to analyze if an engineered protein can mimic the HIV envelope protein to produce the bnAbs antibodies. The engineered protein eOD-GT8 was used as a siren for the precursors in blood to be modified and activated to produce antibodies.

Though the number of precursors that are being activated in a healthy, HIV-negative human blood by ‘eOD-GT8’ is pegged near 2,700 to 3100, this might be all that it takes to provide a springboard for producing stronger immune responses in the HIV patients, through multiple rounds of HIV protein booster-injections.

Based on these results, the team has planned to launch a Phase 1 clinical trial in human volunteers to see if their latest engineered protein can modify the B cells in human subjects into producing protective antibodies.

Dr. Francis Collins, the current NIH director in a recent NIH blog reviewed the study positively and sounded hopeful for a potential breakthrough in HIV vaccine efforts. He said, “It is clear that the quest for effective HIV vaccines and treatments has to be top research priority. There is a lot of work that still must be done before we can test this sequential HIV vaccine approach in humans, but, as these three new studies show, scientific progress in this arena looks promising.”

Previously only one vaccine, sponsored by NIAID which is a part of NIH, RV144 (made by combining two vaccines which failed separately), showed in a recent trial that the rate of HIV infection among volunteers who received it was 31 percent lower than the rate of infection in volunteers who were given a placebo. New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published these findings. This vaccine forms a milestone for future research in HIV prevention medicine.

In 2014, 44,073 people were diagnosed with HIV in United States. The annual number of cases fell 19 percent from the year 2005 to 2014, mainly due to public awareness and preventive measures. About 50,000 Americans and two million people worldwide are HIV positive. According to the CDC, 13 percent out of these did not know they were infected in 2012.

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, infects human body, specifically the immune system cells, CD4 (T cells), which help the body fight off infections. If left untreated it can develop into AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which can compromise the immune system, leaving the body unprotected. Even small opportunistic infections or cancers can have a fatal effect. Initial symptoms can include fever, chills, rash and fatigue. HIV can spread through body fluids like, blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

No effective cure for HIV currently exists, but with proper care and treatment HIV can be controlled. The only medicine which can help control HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Today, a person who is diagnosed early can live a relatively normal life if he or she stays in treatment. There is a diagnostic test available in many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, and hospitals, for HIV.

A July 2012 report from HIV Vaccines and Microbicides Resource Tracking Working Group estimated that $845 million had been spent on research for AIDS vaccine in the year 2011.