This article was published on July 10th, 2021
A groundbreaking new trial has recently begun in Oxford that could have a profound impact on the gay community and is being regarded as the next stage of eradicating HIV across the world. The mission of the trial, known publicly as HIV-CORE 0052, is to evaluate the efficacy, tolerability, and immunogenicity of the HIVconsvX vaccine – a mosaic vaccine targeting an expansive range of HIV-1 variants, making it applicable potential for HIV strains in any area of the world.
The trial consists of 13 healthy, HIV- negative adults between the ages of 18 to 65 that are not considered to be in a high risk of infection category; they will receive initially one dose of the vaccine to be followed by another booster dose after four weeks. The trial is in conjunction with the European Aids Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020), an internationally collaborative research project funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 health program for research and innovation.
Professor Tomáš Hanke, Professor of Vaccine Immunology at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, and the lead researcher on the trial, stated: “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.”
What potentially sets this vaccine apart from others? While the majority of 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.
Dr. Paola Cicconi, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, and the trial Chief Investigator, stated: “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.”
Currently, HIV prevention primarily focuses on behavioral and biomedical interventions such as male circumcision, condom use, and anti-retroviral drugs used prior to exposure to HIV. If left untreated, HIV damages the body’s immune system and can potentially develop into life-threatening AIDS.
Professor Tomáš Hanke said: “There is strong evidence that undetectable HIV viral load prevents sexual transmission. Nevertheless, the pace of decline in new HIV infections failed to reach the Fast-Track Target agreed upon by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016: fewer than 500,000 new infections per year in 2020. Even in the broader context of increasing antiretroviral treatment and prevention, an HIV-1 vaccine remains the best solution and likely a key component to any strategy ending the AIDS epidemic.”
The researchers would like to be able to report results from the HIV-CORE 0052 trial by as early as April 2022.
The UN announced in 2014 that by the year 2020, the number of people newly infected with the virus would be reduced to approximately 500,000. However, close to 1.5 million new cases were reported last year. AIDS was first clinically reported on June 5, 1981, with five cases in the United States.
There are also plans to expand, with similar trials scheduled tentatively in Europe, Africa and the US. As updates continue on this story, HomoCulture will keep readers up to date on the latest news.