Although the development of an effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection has proved enormously challenging, researchers have made remarkable progress toward that goal in recent years.
In 2009, a clinical trial in Thailand demonstrated for the first time that a vaccine can prevent HIV infection. Though the protection it provided was too modest to support licensure, subsequent analysis of the immune responses induced by the vaccine regimen has provided information that will be applied to the design and clinical evaluation of future HIV vaccine candidates.
There also has been considerable progress in research to tackle some of the most challenging problems faced by HIV vaccinologists. Scientists have isolated and closely analyzed dozens of exceptionally potent antibodies that neutralize a broad spectrum of HIV variants circulating around the world. The close examination of how these antibodies bind to the virus and block its entry into its target cells establishes a foundation for the development of potentially powerful AIDS vaccines. Researchers are, for example, studying the precise molecular structures gripped by such antibodies to reverse-engineer vaccines that might elicit similarly effective antibodies. Click here to learn specifically about IAVI and its partners' advances in the area of broadly neutralizing antibodies.
In addition, several preclinical studies of novel vectors for HIV vaccine have produced promising results, far exceeding the performance in similar studies of candidates that are today in clinical trials. We expect that these vectors will prove capable of provoking stronger, better sustained responses against HIV.
These and other advances in HIV vaccine development—including the design of new tools and technologies for vaccine delivery—have boosted optimism in the field about the prospects for the development of a safe and effective AIDS vaccine.