Native-like trimers represent a promising starting point for developing HIV-1 vaccines

Researchers representing the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative or IAVI, the Rockefeller University and the Scripps Research Institute or TSRI have successfully demonstrated in mice that a new vaccine formulated at TSRI possesses the ability to simulate the immune system functions required for stopping HIV infection. This finding might help scientists to develop an effective HIV vaccine.

The said research has been published in the journals Science and Cell on June 18, 2015, in the form of two separate studies. This newly published research marks a step forward in the effort of developing an effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection. Here, it must be mentioned that to date, scientists trying to formulate effective HIV vaccines have struggled significantly for eliciting antibodies that can effectively drive away different strains of HIV causing virus.

The results of this new study have truly made the scientists optimistic. Dennis Burton, the chairperson of the Department of Immunology & Microbial Science at TSRI, said that the results are quite spectacular. Burton also happens to be the scientific director of a couple of TSRI centers; they are: the National Institutes of Health Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology & Immunogen Discovery and the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Consortium.

The study published in Science was co-led by a team consisting of Burton, David Nemazee, a TSRI professor and William Schief, the Associate Director of Vaccine Design at IAVI NAC and a TSRI professor. The study published on Cell, on the other hand, was co-led by Schief, and Prof. Michel Nussenzweig of the Rockefeller University. Prof. Nussenzweig is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The long-term goal of scientists conducting this newly published research was designing a vaccine that would be prompting the body to create antibodies boasting the ability to bind HIV effectively and prevent the infection.

Quite a few vaccines meant for preventing other diseases use the inactive or dead version of the disease-inducing microbe in order to enable antibody production. This formula wouldn’t work in case of HIV vaccines.

Immunizations carried out using native HIV proteins cannot trigger the desired immune response; this happens because HIV is capable of evading detection from the patient’s immune system and mutates into new strains pretty rapidly.