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Researchers a Step Closer to HIV Vaccine

Vaccine candidate stimulates production of neutralizing antibodies

A team of researchers has discovered a vaccine candidate that is expected to stimulate the production of neutralizing antibodies that can defend against infection from a broad spectrum of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) strains.

An article published in Science details the discovery by Seattle-based scientists led by Dr. Leo Stamatatos. Stamatatos conducted the research while he was at Seattle BioMed before moving his team to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center earlier this year.

The vaccine consists of a protein antigen that works by stimulating the progenitors of B cells, a type of immune cell that produces antibodies that bind to HIV strains. By binding to the HIV virus, the antibodies block infections or “neutralize” the virus.

“The hypothesis and approach are something completely different from what’s been done before,” Stamatatos said.

The vaccine builds on previous work by scientists and addresses the inefficiencies of other promising vaccine approaches. If progress continues, the vaccine could be in human trials in 2 years.

“These findings give researchers new clues to improve the chances of inducing broadly neutralizing antibodies, which is the holy grail of an HIV vaccine,” said Dr. Julie McElrath, director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The clinical trials will determine, for the first time in humans, whether the vaccine can elicit the correct neutralizing antibodies to block the virus. Researchers will then need to determine how to maintain the antibodies for extended periods.

Source: Seattle Biomed; December 13, 2014.

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