Under collaboration, TSRI to test Yisheng's adjuvant in HIV vaccines

The Scripps Research Institute will team up with China's Yisheng Biopharma to test the biotech's adjuvant in HIV vaccines. Pictured is a Scripps lab in Florida.

Seeking to address a top public health priority, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has teamed with China’s Yisheng Biopharma with hopes of advancing vaccine research against HIV.

Through the deal, Scripps will test its vaccine technology in conjunction with Yisheng’s PIKA adjuvant. The biotech says its adjuvant has undergone Phase II testing in rabies and Phase I testing in hepatitis B with positive results thus far.

PIKA is a Toll-like receptor 3 agonist that TSRI believes “could activate innate immune signaling and induce a more robust immune response that confers protection against HIV infection” when paired with HIV vaccines, TSRI assistant professor Jiang Zhu said in a statement.

In preclinical work to date, Yisheng’s adjuvant has “exhibited broad potential” in disease areas such as rabies, HIV, hep B, influenza and tuberculosis, the company said in its statement.

For TSRI, the collaboration follows a series of scientific advances against HIV, most recently in September when a team there identified antibodies that could potentially target “holes” in the deadly virus’ defensive shield. Earlier in the same month, a group led by TSRI and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative published findings showing that the immune system can be manipulated to advance the development of antibodies against the virus.

While that work is early, the NIH recently unveiled plans to start a large, late-stage trial of vaccine candidate HVTN 100 in South Africa later this year. That vaccine--made up of one experimental vaccine each supplied by Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline--will undergo testing in 5,400 HIV-uninfected men and women.

Other institutions involved in the global effort to develop an HIV vaccine are the University of Maryland, Texas Biomed, UMass, Duke University and Johnson & Johnson. Across the pond, the European Commission established a €23 million ($25 million) collaboration last year that involves 22 companies and organizations aimed at creating an HIV vaccine.