An HIV vaccine research team led by Texas Biomedical Research Institute has secured $23 million in NIH grant funding to explore an approach that’ll utilize three lines of defense to protect against the virus.
As part of the 5-year project with three phases, the scientists want to develop a vaccine that can block HIV where it infiltrates the body at the mucosa while also creating a backup response throughout the blood and tissue.
First, the group will examine how HIV moves through mucus and mucosal fluids and how it passes through epithelial barriers. For the second portion, the group plans to build on previous work in immune exclusion to prevent the virus from crossing epithelial barrier. Lastly, Dr. Darrell Irvine from MIT will lead efforts in vaccine design.
The group takes inspiration for the plan from the military tactic “defense-in-depth” which stresses to protect an area even after a frontline is overrun, according to a release.
It’s the latest in a series of developments in a fast-moving HIV vaccines field as projects around the world take shape. In May, the NIH said it planned to initiate a large-scale trial later this year in South Africa, building on a 2009 study in Thailand of the vaccine RV144.
Just last week, Johnson & Johnson said it completed enrollment for a Phase I/IIa trial of 400 volunteers in South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Thailand and the United States, Business Insider reported. It also has plans to enroll for another early trial.
Elsewhere, Duke last year grabbed $20 million in NIH funding to conduct its HIV vaccine research, and TSRI, and the University of Maryland have all progressed with candidates. Last fall, the European Commission started a €23 million collaboration between 22 organizations and companies hoping to contribute in efforts toward an HIV vaccine.
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