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First trial of HIV vaccine using Covid jab tech announced

Moderna launches early-stage clinical trials of an HIV vaccine using the same technology as the pharma giant’s Covid jab

Moderna has announced that, in conjunction with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the biotech firm has started a Phase I trial of its HIV mRNA vaccine at a Washington, DC facility.

The trial – the first doses of which have already been administered at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (GWU) – is focused on producing a vaccine for HIV using the same tech that helped develop Moderna’s Covid-19 inoculation.

“The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine,” Dr. Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, said in a statement about the trial.

While HIV is now manageable with medication, allowing viral loads to be reduced to undetectable and not transmissible levels, no vaccine has been developed for the virus – and several candidates have failed during clinical trials. 

The Moderna vaccine seeks to use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology to teach the recipient’s cells to make proteins that trigger immune responses to fight off potential infection.

READ MORE: Withholding vaccine safety data ‘morally indefensible,’ medical journal says

Alongside the primary vaccine being trialed by researchers, Moderna is working on a booster jab to deliver an immune response within individuals who receive the jab, protecting recipients from exposure to the virus in the future.

The trial involves 56 people, with 48 receiving one or both doses of the vaccine and 32 also getting the booster. Eight of the trial participants will just be given the booster shot.

Phase I is due to last for six months, allowing researchers to monitor recipients to gauge the efficacy and safety of the vaccine before proceeding with further clinical trials.

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