Researchers are making progress in developing vaccine immunogens designed to induce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) against HIV. These antibodies develop in only a fraction of HIV-infected individuals, but are the sort of antibodies that many vaccine researchers think will be the most likely to ward off infection if they are induced through vaccination. In what some researchers are calling a “major advance,” three recently published research studies detail these advances and provide the first immunogenicity data in animals for two different types of immunogens. The first immunogens are those similar to the trimer outer Envelope protein of native HIV. The other is a so-called “germline-targetting” immunogen that is engineered to induce the earliest precursors of a specific class of  bNAbs.

A lead physician with the World Health Organization (WHO) says the Geneva-based group may change its guidelines for when HIV-infected individuals should start antiretroviral treatment (ART), a move that could potentially affect millions.

Ever since Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine against the dreaded smallpox virus, researchers have been riveted by the interplay between the body’s defense mechanisms and pathogens staging an attack.

When an outbreak of Ebola exploded last August in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, US-based physician-researcher Pat Fast received a call out of the blue.

“My fellow Americans, if the 21st century is to be the century of biology, let us make an AIDS vaccine its first great triumph…And let us also pledge to redouble our vigilance to make sure that the knowledge of the 21st century serves our most enduring human values.”

 – President Bill Clinton, Commencement Address, Morgan State University, Baltimore, Md., May 18, 1997

Today is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, marking the 18th anniversary of that speech and the launch of a major AIDS vaccine development program. No one expected the solution to arise easily. But the quest for a vaccine that can outwit the quick-change artist known as HIV has turned out to be even more challenging than expected. There is, however, good reason to be hopeful.