March 24, 2021

Uhambo: Twists and turns on the journey to an efficacious HIV-1 vaccine

IAVI CEO Mark Feinberg charts future HIV-1 vaccine development efforts in NEJM.

In a new commentary the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., IAVI President and CEO underscores the importance of innovation in HIV vaccine development following the disappointing outcome of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) 702 study (termed Uhambo, Zulu for “journey”). Feinberg’s commentary follows the recent publication of findings from Uhambo today in NEJM.

Says Feinberg: “Even though the HVTN 702 results were disappointing, important recent data have indicated that a sufficient level of a broadly neutralizing antibody against HIV-1 (HIV bnAb) can protect at-risk persons from infection with bnAb-susceptible HIV-1 variants. These findings have established the breadth, potency, and concentration of HIV bnAb as a mechanistic correlate of protection. Although inducing protective bnAb responses by vaccination will be challenging, studies that combine high-resolution structural methods (including crystallography and cryogenic electron microscopy) to reveal important details regarding HIV-1 Env antigenic determinants and insights into how bnAb-producing B cells develop in a subgroup of patients with HIV infection have provided a promising direction for vaccine development. The ability of a defined vaccine immunogen to initiate the process of bnAb evolution in persons without HIV infection was recently shown.”

The recent showing Feinberg refers to is IAVI G001, a Phase I clinical trial testing a novel HIV vaccine approach. IAVI and Scripps Research announced in February that almost all participants in the trial produced the desired type of immune response. William Schief, Ph.D., presented the results on behalf of the study team at the International AIDS Society HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) virtual conference in February. Schief is a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Center, and his laboratory developed the vaccine. Evidence from IAVI G001 validates a new approach to an HIV vaccine.

Watch this explainer video to learn more about the IAVI G001 results.