According to a new submission to the US National Institutes of Health Clinical Trial registry Moderna has started testing its new experimental mRNA-based HIV vaccine.
Unlike traditional vaccines, which usually contain some part of a weakened or inactivated virus, mRNA vaccines contain an 'instruction booklet' that's passed into our cells and tells them how to make fragments of specific proteins that sit on the outside of the target virus.
The trial started with 56 participants who didn’t have HIV to test the vaccine’s safety. At this early stage, the trial isn't 'blind', which means everyone who receives the vaccine will know what they're getting. That's because right now the researchers aren't trying to work out how well the vaccine works. This first phase will last approximately 10 months, and they just want to make sure it's safe and that it mounts a basic immune response. If the researchers are assured of the vaccine’s safety they will go through phase 2 and phase 3 trials to determine the efficacy of the vaccine and how well it prevents HIV infection. The vaccine is a collaboration between Moderna, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
We and others postulated many years ago that in order to induce Nabs (an antibody that is responsible for defending cells from pathogens), you must start the process by triggering the right B cells – cells that have special properties giving them the potential to develop into Nab-secreting cells," said immunologist William Schiff.