Lessons from HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials

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Purpose of review

Only four HIV-1 vaccine concepts have been tested in six efficacy trials with no product licensed to date. Several scientific and programmatic lessons can be learned from these studies generating new hypotheses and guiding future steps.

Recent findings

RV144 [ALVAC-HIV (canarypox vector) and AIDSVAX B/E (bivalent gp120 HIV-1 subtype B and CRF01_AE)] remains the only efficacy trial that demonstrated a modest vaccine efficacy, which led to the identification of immune correlates of risk. Progress on subtype-specific, ALVAC (canarypox vector) and gp120 vaccine prime-boost approaches has been slow, but we are finally close to the launch of an efficacy study in Africa in 2016. The quest of a globally effective HIV-1 vaccine has led to the development of new approaches. Efficacy studies of combinations of Adenovirus type 26 (Ad26)/Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA)/gp140 vaccines with mosaic designs will enter efficacy studies mid-2017 and cytomegalovirus (CMV)-vectored vaccines begin Phase I studies at the same time. Future HIV-1 vaccine efficacy trials face practical challenges as effective nonvaccine prevention programs are projected to decrease HIV-1 incidence.


An HIV-1 vaccine is urgently needed. Increased industry involvement, mobilization of resources, expansion of a robust pipeline of new concepts, and robust preclinical challenge studies will be essential to accelerate efficacy testing of next generation HIV-1 vaccine candidates.

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