News Feature | August 5, 2014

NIH Awards $3.5M In Grants To Profectus For HIV Vaccines

By Estel Grace Masangkay

HIV vaccines

Clinical stage vaccine platform firm Profectus BioSciences announced that it has been awarded two Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grants for a total of $3.5 million for the development of its new DNA vaccine against simian immunodeficiency (SIV) infection of macaques, the most prevalent animal model for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The award was granted by the Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the initiative ‘Cure Agenda’. Profectus Biosciences will conduct development efforts in partnership with Dr. Deborah Fuller, Associate Professor in Microbiology at the University of Washington and Washington National Primate Research Center. Dr. Fuller has published her findings showing that a skin-delivered DNA vaccine co-formulated with an adjuvant-stimulated mucosal T cell response resulted in significant viral suppression in infected macaques following antiretroviral therapy.

Last year, the company began an NIAID-led Phase I study of its multi-antigen HIV DNA vaccine co-formulated with GENEVAX interkeukin-12 (IL-12) adjuvant in a ‘prime boost’ vaccination program. Following priming of the immune system, a booster immunization is administered with the company’s recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (rVSV)‐Vectored HIV vaccine. The regimen aimed to seek out and eradicate latent reservoir of the virus in patients taking anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

Dr. John Eldridge, Profectus BioSciences’ CSO, said it is well known that stopping ART leads to the speedy return of high HIV levels into a patient’s bloodstream. “As a first step toward “the cure,” in this clinical trial we will investigate the effect of our prime‐boost therapeutic vaccination strategy on the decay of the persistent HIV reservoir in infected individuals who initiated ART during the early/acute phase of HIV infection. This trial represents an early step towards the ultimate goal of eradication or drug‐free control of HIV infection.”

This July, the NIH reported more progress in the slowly progressing fight against HIV: a team of scientists confirmed that using triple-drug antiretroviral therapy for 6 months completely suppressed HIV replication in SIV-infected animals.