Biotech giant Moderna is developing HIV vaccine using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, following the success of its similarly-developed COVID-19 vaccine.
With more traditional vaccines, a weakened or inactive virus is what’s introduced to the body. But mRNA technology uses genetic blueprints that then build proteins to train the immune system to fight off the virus.
The biotech company is expected to launch phase 1 trials for its mRNA HIV vaccine this August, ending sometime around spring 2023, according to the National Institutes of Health’s trial registry. The trials will involve 56 HIV-negative participants (aged 18 to 56); they will be given one or two forms of mRNA that cause the body to form defenses against HIV infection.
At least in the US, four phases usually happen in vaccine development.
- Phase I trials test the safety of the vaccine by administering different dose strengths and observing how the body and drug interact.
- Phase II trials test the vaccine’s overall effectiveness.
- Phase III trials compare the safety and effectiveness of the new vaccine against the current medications (in this case, HIV medications).
And if the vaccine successfully completes Phase III testing, the studies will be sent to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. It is the FDA that conducts Phase IV trials, this time for widespread testing and cost analysis.