Johnson & Johnson Start Human Trials for HIV Vaccine

Johnson and Johnson J&J and its scientific collaborators are investigating whether changing the formulation of the vaccine antigens during the regimen – a ‘heterologous prime boost’ – can improve immune responses. After encouraging results in non-human primates for HIV vaccines, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) have now started enrolling volunteers.

The preclinical study involved 12 monkeys who were injected with the prime dose only, 12 who got the prime-boost regimen and eight given placebo, with all the subjects then exposed to six doses of SIV. Two of the 12 monkeys given the prime dose alone were SIV-free at the end of the trial, while all those given placebo contracted the infection. The prime-boost regimen protection six of 12 monkeys. On top of this, blood taken from monkeys that tested negative for SIV was given to other monkeys and did not seem to transmit the virus.

Although still in the early stages, the positive non-human primate data is good news in the HIV vaccine field, which has seen a string of disappointments in recent years. The HIV vaccine will be tested in a phase I/IIa trial involving around 400 healthy, HIV-uninfected volunteers. The vaccine was able to provide complete protection from SIV – a virus similar to HIV that infects primates that is much more infectious than its human counterpart.

“Despite great progress in HIV treatments, HIV remains one of the greatest global health threats of our time with millions continuing to be infected each year,” said Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of J&J’s Janssen division. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine that prevents HIV in the first place.”


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