Moderna is set to start human testing for its HIV vaccine, which will be the first of its kind to use messenger RNA (mRNA). This is the same approach Moderna used for its COVID-19 vaccine.
The trials will start this Thursday (August 19), and will run through 2023. It will involve 56 HIV-negative participants aged 18 to 56, who will be given one or two forms of mRNA that cause the body to form defenses against HIV infection. Previously, HIV vaccines used inactivated forms of the virus, which were discovered to be ineffective. A trial in Thailand in the 2000s showed that the vaccine increased peoples’ risk of contracting HIV, which led to the trial being canceled.
Rajesh Gandhi, MD, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and chair of the HIV Medicine Association, spoke about the mRNA version of the vaccine. He explained, “The mRNA platform makes it easy to develop vaccines against variants because it just requires an update to the coding sequences in the mRNA that code for the variant.” In the history of the virus, it has mutated into at least 16 known variants.
Dr. Gandhi added, “Based on its success in protecting against COVID-19, I am hopeful that mRNA technology will revolutionize our ability to develop vaccines against other pathogens, like HIV and influenza.”