New vac­cine and drug tri­als could buoy fight against HIV

Tehran Times - - SCI / MED -

Re­searchers an­nounced the launch of two big stud­ies in Africa on Thurs­day to test a new HIV vac­cine and a long-act­ing in­jectable drug, fu­elling hopes for bet­ter ways to pro­tect against the virus that causes AIDS.

The start of the three-year vac­cine trial in­volv­ing 2,600 women in south­ern Africa means that for the first time in more than a decade there are now two big HIV vac­cine clin­i­cal tri­als tak­ing place at the same time.

The new study is test­ing a two-vac­cine com­bi­na­tion de­vel­oped by John­son & John­son (JNJ.N) (J&J) with the U.S. Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion. The first vac­cine, also backed by NIH, be­gan a trial last Novem­ber.

At the same time, Glax­oSmithK­line’s (GSK.L) ma­jor­ity-owned ViiV Health­care unit is start­ing another study en­rolling 3,200 women in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa to eval­u­ate the ben­e­fit of giv­ing in­jec­tions ev­ery two months of its ex­per­i­men­tal drug cabote­gravir.

The ViiV ini­tia­tive, which is ex­pected to run un­til May 2022, also has fund­ing from the NIH and the Gates Foun­da­tion.

Women are a ma­jor fo­cus in the fight against the sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease since in Africa they ac­count for more than half of all new HIV in­fec­tions.

ViiV is also run­ning another large study with its long-act­ing in­jec­tion in HIV-un­in­fected men and trans­gen­der women who have sex with men. That study started in De­cem­ber 2016.

Al­though mod­ern HIV drugs have turned the dis­ease from a death sen­tence into a chronic con­di­tion and pre­ven­ta­tive drug treat­ment can help, a vac­cine is still seen as crit­i­cal in rolling back the pan­demic.

The lat­est vac­cine ex­per­i­ments aim to build on the mod­est suc­cess of a trial in Thai­land in 2009, when an ear­lier vac­cine showed a 31 per­cent re­duc­tion in in­fec­tions.

“We’re mak­ing progress,” said J&J Chief Sci­en­tific Of­fi­cer Paul Stof­fels, who be­lieves it should be pos­si­ble to achieve ef­fec­tive­ness above 50 per­cent.

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