By: Alyssa Wilson
A new experimental mRNA HIV vaccine by Moderna could begin human trials as early as Thursday, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Moderna is collaborating with the University of Texas at San Antonio, George Washington University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Emory University.
For the trials, 56 adults, who do not have HIV, will be enrolled to test the safety of the vaccine. The mRNA- technology being used, mRNA-1644, is based on the mRNA platform in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Clinical Trials Arena reported.
“The uniquely challenging year of 2020 for all of society proved to be an extraordinary proof-of-concept period for Moderna,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said earlier this year. “Even as we have shown that our mRNA-based vaccine can prevent Covid-19, this has encouraged us to pursue more-ambitious development programs within our prophylactic vaccines modality.”
HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that attacks the immune system. Members of the Black and African American communities made up 42% of new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. At the end of that year, an estimated 1.2 million people had HIV, and 482,900 of them were Black or African American.
According to BioSpace, HIV has mutated into numerous variants since it was identified. The mRNA approach is viewed as easily modifiable, giving it a unique advantage over other vaccine techniques. Moderna’s vaccine was designed to stimulate B cells of the immune system to generate neutralizing antibodies against the virus.
June marked the 40th anniversary of the HIV epidemic, and this new vaccine is giving hope to many. Mark Feinberg, the president of nonprofit organization IAVI, said “The only real hope we have of ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic is through the deployment of an effective HIV vaccine, one that is achieved through the work of partners, advocates, and community members joining hands to do together what no one individual or group can do on its own.”