IAVI REPORT – VOL. 18, NO. 2, 2014
If you’re a regular reader of IAVI Report, it is no surprise that the HIV vaccine field is in the midst of an antibody renaissance. Following the first isolation of new, more potent broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) five years ago, researchers have been busily characterizing these antibodies, identifying their targets on the virus, and using this information to advance the arduous task of designing vaccine immunogens capable of inducing such bNAbs.
Some advances in immunogen design were discussed at the recent full group meeting of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), which we provide a briefupdate on in this issue. Larry Corey, a principal investigator of the HVTN who recently decided to step down as president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, provided opening remarks at the HVTN meeting on June 3, and spoke to IAVI Report about his return to research and what he sees as the most promising avenues in vaccine research today.
In addition to being of interest to vaccine researchers, the spate of new bNAbs is also garnering attention as a potential therapeutic to augment antiretroviral-based therapy, as well as a directly administered preventive measure, for example in the setting of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Should any or all of these potential uses for bNAbs prove successful, the need to manufacture them on an industrial scale could become necessary. And as discussed in a feature article in this issue, this could be prohibitively expensive, which is why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, is exploring feasibility of monoclonal antibody production for HIV treatment and prevention.
Finally, in a departure from antibodies, this issue provides a sobering snapshot of the raging HIV epidemic among black men who have sex with men in the US and how public health agencies are attempting to fan its flames.
Next month, thousands of researchers, activists, and affected individuals will attend the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia. After two decades of these meetings, it is clear that ending AIDS is a priority, but still a distant goal—one that we will continue to track and report on each step of the way.
—Kristen Jill Kresge