Moderna Launches Early-Stage Clinical Trial Of Its mRNA-Based HIV Vaccine

Moderna has administered the first doses of its mRNA-based HIV vaccine to volunteers in a clinical trial, the biotechnology company announced late last week.

The trial is being conducted in partnership with the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). Researchers are testing whether an mRNA-based vaccine, which uses the same technology as Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine, can deliver the instructions for HIV-specific antigens and induce certain immune responses.

The first participants in the Phase I trial were given doses at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., according to a company statement.

“We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Dr. Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, said in a statement. “The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”

Nearly 38 million people worldwide — including about 1.3 million in the U.S — are living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) which can lead to the potentially fatal disease AIDS.

“Researchers have developed not only a primary vaccine but also a booster to deliver HIV immunogens — molecules that elicit an immune response — via mRNA,” reports ABC News. “The hope is this process can induce specific white blood cells, called B cells, which can then turn into what are known as broadly neutralizing antibodies that can neutralize the virus.”

According to Moderna’s statement, Phase I of the trial will enroll 56 healthy, HIV-negative adult participants at GWU and three additional sites: Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; and the University of Texas-Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Of the volunteers, 48 will receive one or two doses of the mRNA vaccine, and 32 also will receive the booster. The remaining eight will receive just the booster.