An experimental HIV vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is ready to be tested on thousands of humans in the US and Europe. It could include the first immunization against the disease.
New study regimen for gay men
The first regimen of shots will be delivered this year to about 3,800 homosexual men by J&J, in collaboration with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, announced the news recently.
HIV is a deadly disease that kills 1 million people every year and forces to live millions other with compromised immune systems. The cases first began to appear in the early 1980s, and a vaccine for the disease is yet to be found. The virus changes very rapidly because of which finding a vaccine has been very difficult. Other shots have been focusing on preventing single varieties of the virus.
Dan Barouch, a Harvard Medical School professor who helped in laying the groundwork for the vaccine, said that it helps in bringing the world one step closer to covering a wider diversity of viruses worldwide. He noted that it is better to focus on a vaccine that can target multiple strains of the virus in multiple parts of the world.
Helping people around the world
Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels said that the cost of treating HIV patients and the burden it has on society and the patients is very high. He said that this vaccine is a big mission for the company, and they have been working on it for almost 30 years.
Other collaborators in the study are the US Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, which develops protective gear for soldiers. The results of the study are expected as soon as 2023. The Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have also tried to develop vaccines for HIV.
HIV is a global health epidemic, and the World Health Organization has set the goal of cutting deaths related to HIV to less than 500,000 per year by 2020. The vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is crucial in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. To help ensure that maximum benefits are achieved through this vaccine, it is designed with four components that target multiple strains of the virus.
Professor Barouch has been working on this vaccine for 15 years. Alongside computational biologist Bette Korber from Los Alamos National Laboratory, he designed an optimized set of “mosaic” proteins that could help in improving the body’s immunity against multiple varieties of HIV strains.