Scripps scientists ID weakness-attacking antibodies in pursuit of HIV vaccine

A team at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, this week said they have identified four antibodies to target weaknesses in HIV, touting an "important advance" in HIV vaccine research that could assist in developing a vaccine.

Scripps' Raiees Andrabi

In their work, which was supported by groups including the Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the team was able to mimic the protein structure of HIV with a vaccine candidate. The group found that antibodies were produced naturally by the body and targeted a specific area, dubbed the V2 apex, on the surface of HIV. The area was recognized on about 90% of HIV known strains, leading the researchers to believe that targeting the region could protect against many forms of the virus.

According to the first study author Raiees Andrabi, a TSRI research associate, the V2 apex helps stabilize HIV, "so it's an important area to target if you want to neutralize" the virus, he told San Diego State University's KPBS. TSRI's work was published in the journal Immunity.

TSRI's research comes on the heels of the European Commission launching a €23M HIV vaccine research initiative and other advancements in the field. Last month, the University of Maryland brought its HIV vaccine candidate to human trials under the direction of Dr. Robert Gallo, seeking to test the vaccine's ability to create a broad antibody response to numerous HIV strains.

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is also working with TSRI researchers on developing broad HIV vaccine candidates while Duke University and Scripps Florida have each recently received funding for their own research. Duke netted $20 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop its vaccine candidate and Scripps Florida received a $6 million Gates Foundation grant for its work.

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