- Six out of 12 monkeys who received Johnson & Johnson's experimental HIV vaccine were protected from the virus, according to data published in Science last week. The monkeys were injected with monkey-HIV, a more powerful variant.
- Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is starting human trials based on the strength of the results.
- There has been a great deal of hesitancy around testing HIV/AIDS vaccines, especially since Merck's AIDS vaccine trials suggested that their investigational vaccine may actually have increased risk of HIV infection.
Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of J&J, emphasizes the idea that with a complex virus like HIV, developing a successful preventive therapy is easier than developing a curative therapy. So far, so good—but J&J has only just finished preclinicals. At this stage of human trials, the company is vetting the vaccine's safety and ability to generate an immune response.
The two-part vaccine contains a cold-causing virus that function as a vector for three HIV proteins that are infused into the body and intended to generate antibodies. This first shot is followed by a booster shot comprised of a purified HIV protein to enhance response.
Assuming all goes well, larger scale trials will move forward, with results expected by 2020.