Another highlight from this year’s World Vaccine Congress in Europe was the opportunity to speak to Dr Christian Brander in person. Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Aelix Therapeutics; he and his team are based in Spain, focusing on a therapeutic HIV vaccine. His presentation at the Congress explored some of Aelix Therapeutics’ recent results, and we were lucky to steal some of his time for a conversation.
Introducing Aelix Therapeutics
Dr Brander kindly explained who he is and what his current role is for those of us who are unfamiliar with the team at Aelix Therapeutics. He believes that his roles as Chief Scientific Officer and ICREA Research Professor complement each other and contribute to “recent success” in the clinical programme. Aelix Therapeutics is dedicated to the development of a therapeutic HIV vaccine for use in cure/eradication stages.
What did you bring to the Congress?
We asked more about Dr Brander’s showcase at the Congress, and he indicated that he was sharing limited data due to a paper embargo at Nature Medicine. Therefore, he was able to give insights into the safety and efficacy data from the recent 002 clinical trial, a “double blind placebo controlled” trial in patients whose infection was quickly identified and “immediately treated”.
How did you operate during COVID-19?
As ever, we were interested to learn how Aelix Therapeutics fared during the pandemic, and to what extent research was affected. Dr Brander suggested that “at the height of the COVID outbreak in Spain” Aelix Therapeutics conducted 002 and 003. Luckily, thanks to “corrective measures” such as home visits and early vaccinations, no participants were lost. Despite the “severe impact on day-to-day operations” the team pulled through. It is remarkable to hear from so many of our speakers how they were able to rise to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Although COVID-19 presented a unique set of obstacles to the development of Aelix Therapeutics’ vaccine, T-cell vaccines bring their own challenges. For HIV infection, Dr Brander sees the need for a “combination approach”. This necessitates testing a vaccine alongside “other components that [they] think can complement” it. Thus, large trials are required, with “large cohorts” across “different arms”.
At this stage, Dr Brander and his team have “massively de-risked” the T-cell immunogen platform in order to “go confidently” into combination trials.
Those of you who have been following previous interviews will know that we love to ask about our events. Apart from the ego boost, it is helpful to understand what really draws our world-class speakers to the Congress. Dr Brander served us a slice of humble pie on this occasion, remarking that being “close to home” is ideal! He reflected that getting to “sleep in [his] own bed” after a “day of fantastic talks” is a winning factor. However, he also identified that “contacts and matchmaking” make it a “great place”.
Thank you to Dr Brander for making the time to speak to us, and for giving us an insight into the development of HIV therapies. If you are interested in learning more about HIV programmes you can join us either in San Diego or Washington by getting tickets now.