A new partnership has been formed between European and African researchers to develop an AIDS vaccine that can be used to prevent infection with different strains of HIV worldwide.
The Globally Relevant AIDS Vaccine Europe-Africa Trials Partnership (GREAT) will evaluate a new vaccine that triggers the body to produce specialised immune cells called T-cells, which will be trialled at four sites in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia.
Led by Professor Tomáš Hanke at the Jenner Institute at University of Oxford, GREAT is a collaboration between Oxford University, Imperial College London, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative – Institute for Clinical Research (KAVI-ICR), The Kenya Medical Research Institute – Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP), the Medical Research Council at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI), UVRI-IAVI and the Zambia Emory HIV Research Program (ZEHRP).
Professor Tomáš Hanke said: ‘There is enormous variation between HIV strains worldwide, which as well as making treatment difficult, has also been an obstacle to developing a vaccine.
‘Similar vaccines have proven to be safe and promising in past trials. As this vaccine only contains small portions of HIV-1, it cannot cause HIV infection or AIDS.
‘By using small parts common to most HIVs, the vaccine if successful could be used around the world, especially in Africa which is most affected by the HIV pandemic.’
The project is supported by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
Dr Michael Makanga Executive Director of EDCTP, said: ‘Despite remarkable advances in treatment and prevention, the AIDS epidemic is not over. In 2015 alone, AIDS killed more than 1.1 million people globally and 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘Available prevention and treatment remain out of reach or challenging to adhere to, particularly in communities that are mobile or live in remote regions, as well as for people who fear stigma and discrimination. An effective vaccine could prevent the majority of new HIV infections.’
The GREAT project is financially supported through a 7.1m Euro grant from the EDCTP and co-funding from IAVI and Oxford University.
The tHIVconsvX vaccine will be evaluated in a trial, engaging communities that face some of the highest risks of HIV infection in the world. The project builds on extensive research expertise and infrastructure, as well as successful community engagement programmes being carried out by all of the African partners. In parallel to conducting the trial, the project will support a range of capacity building projects at the African research centres aimed at preparing them to participate in future large-scale vaccine efficacy trials.