Scientists at the University of Oxford have started vaccinations of a novel HIV vaccine candidate as part of Phase I clinical trial in the UK.

The goal of the trial is to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the HIVconsvX vaccine a mosaic vaccine targeting a broad range of HIV-1 variants, making it potentially applicable for HIV strains in any geographical region.

Thirteen healthy, HIV-negative adults, aged 18-65 and who are considered not to be at high risk of infection, will initially receive one dose of the vaccine followed by a further booster dose at four weeks.

An effective HIV vaccine has been elusive for 40 years. This trial is the first in a series of evaluations of this novel vaccine strategy in both HIV-negative individuals for prevention and in people living with HIV for cure,- lead researcher Tomas Hanke, Professor of Vaccine Immunology at the Jenner Institute at Oxford, in a statement.

While most HIV vaccine candidates work by inducing antibodies generated by B-cells, HIVconsvX induces the immune system’s potent, pathogen obliterating T cells, targeting them to highly conserved and therefore vulnerable regions of HIV — an “Achilles heel” common to most HIV variants.

“Achieving protection against HIV is extremely challenging and it is important that we harness the protective potential of both the antibody and T cell arms of the immune system,” said Paola Cicconi, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Jenner Institute.

At present, prevention of HIV largely focuses on behavioral and biomedical interventions such as voluntary medical male circumcision, condom use, and anti-retroviral drugs used prior to exposure.

The researchers aim to report the results of the trial by April 2022. Similar trials are also planned in Europe, Africa, and the US.

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