HIV-1 is responsible for a global pandemic of almost 37 million people, and continues to spread at a rate over 2 million new infections/year. Developing safe, effective and affordable vaccines that can prevent HIV infection in uninfected people is the best hope for controlling and ultimately ending the HIV epidemic. Developing a therapeutic vaccine could also be beneficial for people living with HIV by helping slow the progression of the disease and prevent or delay the onset of AIDS.
Although researchers have been working on developing a vaccine for 30 years, we do not have a vaccine capable of protecting from HIV-1 infection or impacting on disease progression. However, recent advances are helping to speed up their quest. Scientists have isolated antibodies that are able to block HIV infection in preclinical models, and there have been new developments in using synthetic biology to design better vaccines. On the other hand, there are disappointing results of recent clinical trials point to bottlenecks in identifying viable candidate vaccines, which if unaddressed will continue to present significant risks of failure at relatively late stages of the development process. The European AIDS Vaccine Initiative (EAVI2020) has the challenge of shifting this ‘risk curve’ in order to better select successful vaccine candidates (and discard those with a higher risk of failure) at an earlier stage of the vaccine development process.
EAVI2020 will provide a platform for the discovery and selection of several new, diverse and novel preventive and/or therapeutic vaccine candidates for HIV/AIDS. Emphasis will be placed on early rapid, iterative, small Experimental medicine (EM) human vaccine studies to select and refine the best immunogens, adjuvants, vectors, homologous and heterologous prime–boost schedules, and determine the impact of host factors such as gender and genetics. Animal models will be used to complement human studies, and to select novel immunization technologies to be advanced to the clinic. To shift the “risk curve” in product development we will develop innovative risk prediction methods, specifically designed to reduce the risk associated with late stage vaccine failure, increasing the chance of discovery of an effective vaccine.
EAVI2020 (www.eavi2020.eu) has been funded with an EU-grant under the health program of Horizon 2020 for research and innovation with almost 23 million euros, and brings together some of the most competitive research groups in vaccine discovery from European public institutions and biotechs from Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA, providing a pool of international expertise at the highest level.
The EAVI2020 consortium is led by Imperial College London and brings together 23 partners, including some of the most competitive research groups in vaccine discovery from European public institutions and biotechs from 9 EU countries together with top Australian and Canadian groups and US collaborators:
1. Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine. United Kingdom
2. The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford (UOXF). United Kingdom
3. Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale (INSERM). France
4. Fundació Privada Institut de Recerca de la Sida (IrsiCaixa). Spain
5. Istituto Superiore di Sanita (ISS). Italy
6. Polymun Scientific Immunbiologische Forschung Gmbh. Austria
7. Fundacio Privada Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica (FCRB). Spain
8. Academisch Medisch Centrum bij de Universiteit van Amsterdam (AMC). Netherlands
9. Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA). France
10. Ospedale San Raffaele (OSR). Italy
11. Universite Joseph Fourier Grenoble 1 (UJF). France
12. King's College London (KCL). United Kingdom
13. Karolinska Institutet (KI). Sweden
14. Universitatsklinikum Erlangen (UKER). Germany
15. The University of Western Ontario (UWO). Canada
16. Nemzeti Elelmiszerlancbiztonsagi Hivatal (NFCSO –DVMP). Hungary
17. Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft GmbH (LBG). Austria
18. Biontech RNA Pharmaceuticals GmbH (BioNTech RNA). Germany
19. Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII). Spain
20. Stichting International AIDS Vaccine Initiative the Netherlands (Stichting IAVI). Netherlands
21. University of Melbourne (UOM). Australia
22. University of New South Wales (UNSW). Australia
23. Genome Research Limited (GRL). United Kingdom
The project has the following objectives:
The role of the IP lab in the project will be to set up a central platform for the screening of neutralizing antibodies obtained through different immunogens in animal models and clinical trials. In addition, the researchers of the group will contribute designing new immunogens based on viruses transmitted during acute infection. This approach represents a new and original approach aim to define a new generation of immunogens to obtain a vaccine for HIV.