Moderna is hoping to break new ground fighting another pandemic: HIV/AIDS.
They will soon begin human trials for their mRNA-based vaccine, according to information posted to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) clinical trials database last week.
Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told VeryWell,
“COVID-19 showed us what we can do if we want to move a vaccine forward quickly.”
Moderna is seeking 56 individuals, aged 18 to 50 and who are HIV-negative, for the trial, which is estimated to begin this week and finish in spring of ’23.
The vaccines cleared Phase I testing earlier this year, iinvolving tests using only a handful of human volunteers.
Phase II tests for a vaccine’s overall effectiveness, and with the move into Phase III, Moderna will be looking at its efficacy versus other prevention treatments currently on the market, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PreP.
Unlike inactive or live vaccines, mRNA vaccines do not contain parts of a virus. Instead, they create proteins that themselves trigger an immune response in the body. There are currently 16 known HIV mutations.
According to them,
If new vaccine-resistant forms of HIV arise, researchers would be able to edit the mRNA to produce slightly different proteins with far less genetic material than other types of vaccines.
Although mRNA vaccine technology has been around for decades, the extensive approval time required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has limited the number of mRNA vaccines that eventually make it to widespread use in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that, however, as last year’s private-public partnership program “Operation Warp Speed” accelerated the timetable for clinical vaccine trials and FDA approval.
The financial ramifications of that sped-up timetable have raised eyebrows, however. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed until January 2021, was formerly a board member of Moderna and only sold his stake in the company days after his appointment by former President Donald Trump for an estimated $10 million, prompting concerns about the program’s neutrality. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted at the time that the appointment was “a huge conflict of interest.”
President Dr. Mark Feinberg, on the 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic said,
“The only real hope we have of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic is through the deployment of an effective HIV vaccine
…one that is achieved through the work of partners, advocates, and community members joining hands to do together what no one individual or group can do on its own,” wrote International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI)
Others are trying for a vaccine (40 years on) as well. Phase I testing for a “mosaic” vaccine began at Oxford University back in July.
Human trials for Moderna's HIV vaccine candidate are estimated to begin on August 19 and should be completed by spring 2023. https://t.co/DHmT2bwfRo— Newsweek (@Newsweek) August 14, 2021
38 million people are currently living with HIV across the globe. Attempts to develop a vaccine have been ongoing for decades.— The Recount (@therecount) August 17, 2021
Now, thanks to mRNA technology, Moderna is preparing to begin human trials on HIV vaccines starting this week. pic.twitter.com/Kz31fGauoC