Scientists of HIVACAR and under European funding, lead the development of a therapeutic vaccine against HIV that allows to reach a functional cure of the infection. The authors predict that a human clinical trial will soon be launched in which an immunotherapeutic combination consisting of a therapeutic vaccine, a broadly neutralizing antibody (to block the junction of HIV with its target cells) and romidepsin (a drug to reverse the latency of cellular reservoirs of the virus). Thanks to the use of genetic engineering techniques to develop immunogens capable of provoking an immune response against HIV-1, the team of researchers resorted to a technique of drug development based on computer simulations, thanks to which it was able to sequence the HIV- 1 of four patients. From these data they elaborated four personalized vaccines that, initially, were tested on animals.
The effectiveness of combination therapy has been improving over these years and has proven to be a powerful tool to control the disease and increase the quality and life expectancy of people with HIV. In spite of everything, it is an expensive medication and requires people to take it constantly for life.
Unlike preventive vaccines, therapeutic vaccines would be administered to people who are already infected to stimulate an immune response to the virus that helps cure or at least control the infection.
At present, it is unlikely that therapeutic vaccines will eliminate the virus from the organism (that is, a sterilizing cure), however this would allow people with HIV to maintain a controlled viral load (with the benefits that this entails for their health and that of third parties) without having to take a daily cocktail of antiretrovirals.
Following the successful trials, the HIVACAR follow-up project is planned to begin testing the vaccine in 56 people with HIV in five hospitals in four European countries. The administration of personalized therapeutic vaccines according to the profile of the person is planned, accompanied by antibody 10-1074 (a potent antibody to neutralize the binding of the virus to cells) and with romidepsin, a drug to reverse cell latency (with the to get HIV out of their reservoirs).