Moderna set to begin clinical trials for an HIV vaccine

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Moderna is set to begin clinical trials of an HIV vaccine that uses mRNA technology, the same technology that led to the success of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The study will begin next month and involve the first human trials of an mRNA vaccine for HIV.

This is huge news for the world, the country, and right here in San Francisco, which became an epicenter of the virus back in the 1980s.

An infectious disease doctor at UCSF, who has dedicated her research to HIV and Aids, says this new vaccine trial shows promise.

HIV remains to be a leading cause of death for some groups around the world and in the United States, four decades after the start of the epidemic.

According to the CDC, about 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, and nearly 16,000 people died from HIV-related illnesses in 2018.

“We have been trying to have an HIV vaccine and make an HIV vaccine almost since the beginning of the epidemic because if you could have a shot that would either prevent HIV or those who have HIV get them off treatment which is called therapeutic vaccination, it would be an incredible thing and all vaccine candidates up to date in large trials today have failed,” Dr. Monica Gandhi said. 

However, as infectious disease doctor at UCSF, Monica Gandhi explains, there’s now a glimmer of hope. 

Moderna will begin the first human trials of an HIV vaccine that uses mRNA technology. 

She says this HIV vaccine is expected to work in the same way.

“The idea of this mRNA technology is to take a piece of the virus, you know for COVID it’s the spike protein and for HIV it’s little pieces of the HIV virus and you yourself make the protein in your body which makes you have high levels of that protein and you raise an immune response against it,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

Next month, Moderna will begin the HIV vaccine trials in 56 adults ranging in ages from 18 to 50-years-old, all of whom do not have HIV.

The participants will test two combinations of the vaccine and be monitored for signs of immune response and any adverse effects.

“This idea when you’ve already started it in primate studies and it looks good and now we’re moving it over to human trials in the hope that we, the person who gets the vaccine makes their own immune response which are called broadly neutralizing antibodies and you yourself literally have antibodies in your bloodstream that will repel HIV if you ever get exposed so it is BIG news and very exciting,” Dr. Gandhi said. 

The trials are expected to end in the spring of 2023.

Doctors call this a tremendous achievement for not just a COVID or future HIV vaccine but vaccines as a whole and say we could see a lot more uses of this mRNA technology in the future.

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