New therapeutic vaccine shows potential cure for HIV infection
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New therapeutic vaccine shows potential cure for HIV infection

Published: November 17, 2016 | 5:28 am
Editor: Adigun Abiola, Africa.

Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, has announced results of a new study published in Nature, which points to a potential new approach against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infection.

The findings suggest that combining therapeutic vaccination with immune stimulation could be a potential way to achieve a so-called “functional cure” for HIV infection, a strategy to suppress HIV infection long term without the need for life-long therapy.

The study titled “Ad26/MVA Therapeutic Vaccination with TLR7 Stimulation in SIV-Infected Rhesus Monkeys” was conducted by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC), the United States Military HIV Research Programme (MHRP) of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), and industry collaborators, including Janssen and Gilead Sciences, Inc.

“Although we have made great progress in developing treatments that allow people living with HIV to live near normal lifespans, patients today have to be on pills every single day of their life for their entire lives,” says Dr. Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Johnson and Johnson. “Our goal is to work across the entire continuum – to have a functional cure, which would keep patients’ virus under check without the life-long burden of being on treatments, and ultimately, to have a preventive vaccine that stops HIV in the first place.”
Typically, vaccines “teach” the body to rid itself of viral invaders by provoking an immune response. However, HIV attacks cells of the immune system. The virus kills the majority of infected immune cells but goes dormant in others. This reservoir of dormant, infected cells, where researchers believe HIV remains hidden during antiretroviral therapy (ART), is the primary reason HIV cannot currently be cured.

In this new study, conducted in non-human primates (NHPs) infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a virus similar to HIV, the strategy was to draw the virus out of hiding with the goal of eradicating it from the body.

Researchers combined two investigational therapeutic vaccines (an adenovirus serotype 26 vector vaccine (Ad26) and an MVA vector vaccine (MVA)) with a TLR7 agonist (an investigational drug that works on a protein of the immune system) into a treatment regimen to be administered alongside ART. When the treatment regimen was given to NHPs they achieved decreased levels of viral DNA in peripheral blood and lymph nodes, and improved viral suppression and delayed viral rebound when ART was stopped.

“The objective of our study was to identify a functional cure for HIV – not to eradicate the virus, but to control it without the need for ART,” said lead author Dan Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Current antiretroviral drugs, although they’re lifesaving, do not cure HIV. They merely hold it in check. We are trying to develop strategies to achieve ART-free, long-term viral suppression.”

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