The 31% fall in HIV infection rates achieved by RV144 in 2009 was the first success in more than 10 years of vaccine trials. Since then, the field has seen yet more failures, but U.S. and Thai researchers are promising a renewed push to build on the potential shown by RV144.
Increasing the level of protection provided by the vaccine is the first step. The Thai government-led initiative is aiming to increase the protection rate above 50%, which the researchers believe is needed to secure regulatory approval. In the years since the publication of positive RV144 data, researchers have worked to better understand the vaccine by using genetic sequencing and other techniques.
This knowledge will feed into development of a modified version of RV144, which combines vaccines developed by Sanofi ($SNY) and Roche's ($RHHBY) unit Genentech. Both vaccines failed when trialled individually. Researchers expect to test the improved combined vaccine in high-risk populations over the next few years.
The trials will take place in Thailand with support from the government, which is also planning to help build flexible manufacturing systems and infrastructure to handle commercial production. Adding a vaccine production plant is part of a strategy to use RV144 as a trigger for broader improvements to healthcare provision in Thailand. "Development of a manufacturing facility will provide opportunities not only for HIV vaccine production but also more broadly for other disease concerns," Colonel Jerome Kim of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program said.
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