Medical school serves as site for new HIV vaccination trial

Media Credit: Maansi Srivastava | Hatchet Photographer

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences was selected as one of two sites to conduct a trial focused on HIV vaccinations.

A new clinical trial taking place at GW could shape the future of HIV vaccinations.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences was selected as one of two sites to conduct a trial focused on HIV vaccinations sponsored by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a nonprofit conducting HIV vaccine research. The study, which began last week, aims to test a vaccine candidate designed to prevent HIV infection, according to a press release last week.

The trial at GW is led by David Diemert, an associate professor of medicine, and Jeffrey Bethony, a professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine.

Diemert serves as the principal investigator on the study which involves recruiting, vaccinating and following participants in the trial. Bethony serves as the laboratory director, which involves processing and coordinating immunology testing of biological specimens collected from participants.

Diemert and Bethony said GW will study 24 “healthy” adult volunteers who will receive two doses of the new vaccine two months apart, which will help them evaluate the safety of the new vaccine. They said participants will be followed “closely” for one year following the second vaccine dose and the results should be released by the end of 2019.

“The study will hopefully be a first step in developing a vaccine that will prevent HIV infection,” Diemert said. “This would be an incredible advance since, to date, there have been no vaccines that have been very effective when tested in clinical trials.”

Diemert added that despite recent advances to combat HIV, more than 1 million people become infected with HIV every year across the world.

“An effective HIV vaccine would be a huge breakthrough that could lead to preventing this infection in millions of people,” he added.

The vaccine candidate was developed with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology and Immunogen Discovery, and Scripps Research, the release states.

The trial is also taking place at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle led by Julie McElrath, the senior vice president and director of the center’s vaccine and infectious disease division, according to the release.

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