London: In what could be a big breakthrough in medical science, researchers at the University of Oxford have started vaccinations of a novel HIV vaccine candidate as part of a Phase I clinical trial in the UK.
The goal of the trial is to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the HIVconsvX vaccine -- a mosaic vaccine targeting a broad range of HIV-1 variants, making it potentially applicable for HIV strains in any geographical region.
As per a report by IANS, thirteen healthy, HIV-negative adults, aged 18-65 and who are considered not to be at high risk of infection, will initially receive one dose of the vaccine followed by a further booster dose at four weeks.
In a statement issued, the lead researcher Tomas Hanke, Professor of Vaccine Immunology at the Jenner Institute at Oxford said that effective HIV vaccine has been elusive for 40 years. He also claimed that the trial is the first in a series of evaluations of this novel vaccine strategy in both HIV-negative individuals for prevention and in people living with HIV for cure.
While most HIV vaccine candidates work by inducing antibodies generated by B-cells, HIVconsvX induces the immune system's potent, pathogen obliterating T cells, targeting them to highly conserved and therefore vulnerable regions of HIV -- an "Achilles heel" common to most HIV variants.
"Achieving protection against HIV is extremely challenging and it is important that we harness the protective potential of both the antibody and T cell arms of the immune system," said Paola Cicconi, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at the Jenner Institute.
At present, prevention of HIV largely focuses on behavioural and biomedical interventions such as voluntary medical male circumcision, condom use, and anti-retroviral drugs used prior to exposure.
The researchers aim to report results of the trial by April 2022. Similar trials are also planned in Europe, Africa and the US.