J&J’s Janssen unit will conduct a clinical study of nearly 4000.
Since acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) first appeared in the 1980s, researchers have been seeking a vaccine to this devastating disease. Despite tremendous advances in the treatment of AIDS, nearly 1 million people still die from the disease each year worldwide.
Today, there are at least three vaccines in late-stage development that could have a real impact.
One of those vaccines is being developed by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen business, which will be initiating a study with 3800 men who identify as homosexual, in the United States and Europe later in 2019. The study is being implemented in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. Funding for development of the vaccine has come in part from the National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation.
The J&J vaccine is designed to work in people all over the world infected with a range of different strains of the AIDS virus, while others under development focus on single strains. It is based on an engineered cold virus that produces “mosaic” proteins that raise immune defenses against a wide variety of HIV strains.
While it does not generate broadly neutralizing antibodies, which are the most effective protection against viruses (nor do any other HIV vaccines), the J&J treatment has been shown to provide protection in up to two-thirds of tested animals. So far, it has also been shown to be safe in humans. A trial has been underway in Africa since 2017 using another version of the mosaic vaccine that involves 2600 women in five countries.