May 17, 2024

IAVI recognizes HIV Vaccine Awareness Day as new papers are published

Additional evidence advances germline targeting strategy for HIV vaccine development

Every year on May 18, the global HIV community observes HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, a day to recognize the long quest to produce one of the holy grails of public health tools: an effective vaccine that could bring an end to HIV.

There are many reasons why an HIV vaccine remains necessary, even in a world where new, long-acting pre-exposure prophylactic drugs (PrEP) are becoming available. There are simply too many new and existing cases of HIV—with 1.3 million people contracting HIV in 2022 alone, and 39 million people living with HIV globally—for our current set of preventive and treatment tools to bring an end to HIV as a public health threat. Tragically, increased uncertainty around continued donor funding, especially in the United States, creates additional risk to an HIV prevention and treatment strategy that rests on the expansion of donor-funded ARV treatment and PrEP access. 

For this reason, HIV vaccine development remains an essential undertaking. This effort has so far failed to bear fruit, with all vaccine candidates taken into efficacy trials failing to date. But IAVI’s current approach to HIV vaccine design offers particular reason to hope.

IAVI’s germline targeting strategy of vaccine development is the first attempt to create an HIV vaccine based on rational vaccine design. Our colleagues are using an iterative process to test immune system responses to carefully sequenced immunogens with the goal of coaching the immune system to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) that can offer protection against HIV. It was incredible to see the results of the IAVI G001 study demonstrating proof-of-principle for this approach when they were announced in 2021. 

Today, it’s very exciting to see a new set of papers published in Science and Science Translational Medicine led by our colleagues at the NAC, Scripps Research, the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, and the Ragon Institute adding to evidence base supporting the germline targeting approach for HIV vaccine development. Among a set of notable findings, it is a great step forward to see proof-of-principle for HCDR3-dominant bnAb-precursor priming in animals established. The papers in Science are available here and here, a paper in Science Translational Medicine is available here, and a paper in Science Immunology is available here. A press release will be published imminently. 

IAVI’s work in HIV prevention goes beyond vaccine development, however. We are also deeply optimistic about the potential offered by the use of bnAbs for prevention. IAVI has spent years developing potent antibodies against HIV, that, when infused, may offer protection against HIV for a period of time. We see a special utility for this technology to protect infants in the peri- and post-natal periods from contracting HIV, and we are excited to have a planned set of trials in adults and infants that will begin at the end of 2024 and in early 2025. We are advancing not only the science for this approach but are working to catalyze the policy and funding decisions that would pave the way to access for this technology. 

To commemorate HVAD this year, IAVI has planned a research literacy workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, and a virtual conference: 

  • HVAD Webinar: Mapping Routes to Success in HIV Vaccine Development 

On June 13, 2024, IAVI will host an HVAD Webinar themed ‘Mapping Routes to Success in HIV Vaccine Development.’ The discussions will focus on strategies to advance the most promising HIV vaccine candidates toward clinical trials, emphasizing the shift toward localized research and development. It will also delve into the progression of experimental medicine vaccine trials for the germline targeting strategy and other innovative approaches, from initial trials to gaining regulatory approval and community acceptance. To register, visit:  

  • HVAD Research Literacy Workshop 

IAVI will host a two-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, targeting advocates from across Africa, for a deep-dive into the importance of vaccine advocacy, understanding vaccine mechanisms, and exploring different vaccine platforms. Participants will gain insights into the HIV vaccine pipeline, funding strategies, and current prevention approaches like broadly neutralizing antibodies.