Duke University to begin trials of mosaic HIV vaccine

Scientists from Duke University Medical Center recently called together an international team of vaccine experts to attempt the first human trial of a mosaic HIV vaccine candidate.

A mosaic vaccine is a new strategy that attempts to counter one of the HIV virus’s most serious challenges - its remarkable and extensive genetic diversity.

Traditionally, HIV vaccines are designed to stimulate a body’s immune system response to recognize stretches of amino acids in the virus proteins. Mosaic vaccines, on the other hand, are composed of sets of synthetic, computer-generated protein sequences that can elicit a variety of immune responses and, therefore, deal with a widely diverse number of HIV strains.

Mosaic vaccine testing in animals has shown positive results in enhancing the range of immune response, but no trials have been conducted on humans. Dr. Barton Haynes, the director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology, hopes to change that.

His newly formed consortium of experts is designing an early phase safety trial to examine mosaic vaccines in humans. The consortium will use the NYVAC vaccinia vector, derived from the smallpox vaccine, and DNA that contains a new series of computer-designed HIV genes in a phase I clinical trial.

"Each member of this consortium is also a member of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, and this collaboration is truly a global effort to make progress on HIV vaccine development," Haynes said.

The trial will be sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The consortium hopes to launch its trials in late 2012.

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