A study that could one day lead to a potential HIV vaccine has shown promising results, scientists have said.
Researchers from the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research say that a phase-one trial has shown “proof in principle” for a new type of vaccine that could be used against the virus.
An effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection has proved elusive for nearly four decades, not least because the virus constantly evolves into different strains to evade the immune system.
However, the trial found success in “stimulating production of rare immune cells needed to start the process of generating antibodies” that could neutralise diverse strains of HIV.
The trial succeeded in generating cell production in 97 per cent of participants, though researchers stressed it is only a first step.
Professor William Schief, executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, said in a release: “This study demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well.
“With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans.
“We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens.”
The researchers are now partnering with biotechnology company Moderna to develop and test an mRNA-based vaccine – the same radical approach employed in the creation of coronavirus vaccines.