PISCATAWAY, N.J., June 12, 2018 -- A promising experimental HIV vaccine was reported in Nature Medicine on June 4, 2018 by Kai Xu and colleagues from Drs. Mascola and Kwong labs at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Rui Chen and Lu Yang from GenScript. This study represents a major breakthrough in HIV vaccine development. Plans are underway to test this vaccine concept in a phase 1 study in the second half of 2019.
Since its discovery in the mid 1980's, HIV has taken the lives of over 35 million people and continues to infect upwards of 1.8 million individuals each year. Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for HIV because of the ability of the virus to generate more virulent forms in each replication. Researchers have been trying to develop an effective vaccine that can induce antibodies recognizing and neutralizing a wide spectrum of HIV, called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs).
In this study, the VRC-led team focused on a critical component of the viral entry machinery, HIV Fusion Peptide (FP). Using a combination of structural biology and reverse vaccinology strategies, they were able to develop a vaccine based on a conjugated format of FP. Upon exposure, this format elicited a strong immune response in mice by generating bNAbs that neutralized up to 31% of a globally representative panel of 208 HIV strains.
According to GenScript's project team lead, Liusong Yin, Ph.D, "this antibody project differed from our regular antibody discovery projects in the way that we were not looking for the final antibodies themselves; instead, we were keen to know how FP would elicit a protective immune response, and what the best strategy to generate that response was." The GenScript team worked very closely with the VRC team in the proof-of-concept stage of this study. Specifically, GenScript helped generate synthetic HIV antigen peptides for triggering the immune system, optimize a proof-of-concept immunization strategy, carry out mouse-based immunizations, and assist in analyzing antigens' capability to generate bNAbs. "We are very proud to work side-by-side with VRC researchers in this novel study", said Dr. Yin on behalf of GenScript.
GenScript is a leading contract research organization providing gene, peptide, protein, CRISPR, and antibody reagents to scientists in over 100 countries worldwide. Since its foundation in 2002, GenScript has grown exponentially through partnerships with scientists conducting fundamental life science and translational biomedical research, as well as early stage pharmaceutical development. With a mission to improve the health of mankind and nature through biotechnology, the company has developed the best-in-class capacity and capability for producing biological reagents in order to Make Research Easy for all scientists. For more information, visit www.genscript.com.
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K Xu et al. Epitope-based vaccine design yields fusion peptide-directed antibodies that neutralize diverse strains of HIV-1. Nature Medicine DOI: 10.1038/s41591-018-0042-6 (2018)