In March 2022 Dr Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, reflected that developing an effective HIV vaccine is a “daunting scientific challenge”. He identifies the obstacles: genetic variability, ability to establish lifelong infection, and human inability to clear HIV independently. However, he was optimistic that the success of the Covid-19 vaccines offers “an exciting opportunity to learn whether mRNA technology can achieve similar results against HIV infection”.

Dr Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, believes it will. He looks forward to the “safe, effective, affordable, and durable” vaccine potential of mRNA. IAVI and Moderna partnered with each other to use this technology. Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, hopes that a “novel approach” might encourage progress. In January 2022 Phase I trials began in Washington DC. 

Another development is HTI, which Dr Christian Brander of AELIX Therapeutics discovered with his team.* They based this on the observation that T-cell responses to some HIV regions are enriched in the cases of individuals with enhanced control of their infection. The immunogen brings these regions together. The sequence design uses data from around 1,000 patients with HIV infection. The predictive power of HTI directed T-cell responses has been validated through sub-studies in earlier vaccine trials. Preclinical data demonstrated that immunisation with HTI in mice and macaques provoked a strong and broad T-cell response. As of July 2022, HTI is still in Phase II trials in Spain. 

As we explore these options, hope continues to grow for the estimated 37.7 million living with HIV. The WHO global health sector strategy intends to reduce HIV infections from 1.5 million in 2020 to 335,000 by 2030. Likewise, they predict that deaths will decrease from 680,000 in 2020 to under 240,000 in 2030. With concerted vaccine efforts, this strategy might become a reality across the globe. 

To read more about the necessity of HIV vaccine development click here.

*To hear from Dr Brander at the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022 follow this link.