Moderna is not only working on an HIV vaccine but is starting human trials on the vaccine as early as THIS WEEK!
According to Newsweek, Moderna is using the same mRNA platform as its COVID-19 vaccine to create a test an HIV-focused vaccine. Though, they actually have two HIV vaccine candidates in the works: mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-CORE. Both vaccines have cleared the initial safety testing and are now moving on the human trials. For these trials, which may start as early as Wednesday, 56 HIV-negative participants aged 18 to 56 will be placed into four groups and be administered with both or either vaccine.
What makes building a vaccine based on an mRNA platform special is that it will teach the body to defend itself against the full virus. That is, instead of teaching the human immune systems through combatting weakened forms of a virus. The purposed vaccine would do this by providing instructions for cells to build immune responses through specific protein production, according to the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trials registry. Another reason the mRNA platform approach seems compelling is that it responds well to variants of a virus. Part of the reason creating an HIV vaccine has been so elusive over the past four decades is because HIV mutates rapidly.
“The mRNA platform makes it easy to develop vaccines against variants because it just requires an update to the coding sequences in the mRNA that code for the variant,” Dr. Rajesh Ghandi, HIV Medicine Association chair, told Verywell Health.
“Based on its success in protecting against COVID-19, I am hopeful that mRNA technology will revolutionize our ability to develop vaccines against other pathogens, like HIV and influenza,” added Gandhi.
Keep in mind, Moderna isn’t the only company working on an HIV vaccine. Just last month, we reported on the fact that the University of Oxford in England is working on a proposed vaccine titled HIVconsvX.
While the Moderna vaccine uses an mRNA platform, the Oxford vaccine attempts to target a range of HIV variants. The vaccine is a mosaic vaccine, meaning it combines several strains of the virus and exposes the immune system to several variants. In this way, the Oxford vaccine focuses on the weakest areas of HIV in the body.
As Oxford professor Tomas Hanke told CTVNews, “Most of the field has been focusing on protection through the use of broadly neutralizing antibodies. Our vaccine aims to use killer T cells.”
He added, “When [the] virus gets into the body, it infects cells, and they start to produce more of the viruses and spread the infection, and our killer T cells are going to kill these virus factories in the bodies before it can hopefully establish a generalized infection.”