Johnson & Johnson Innovation
To date, no HIV vaccine has showed clinical efficacy. This seems to be caused by the immunodominance phenomenon induced by the HIV: there is a great immunological reaction directed against a few antigens that correspond to non-vital areas of the virus. This way, while most of the host’s immunological reaction is focused in these antigens, the virus easily mutates and escapes.
Aelix Therapeutic’s innovation is the use of a vaccine that induces an immunological response specifically against a sequence of critical HIV targets, the so-called “beneficial” regions. These targets were identified in a study on nearly 1000 chronically infected individuals and showed correlation with better control of the viral load. A recent study further confirms the correlation between the immune response directed against beneficial regions and the higher ability to inhibit HIV replication in vitro. Vaccines based on full viral genes or proteins fail to reach these critical targets.
Our vaccine differs from other HIV therapeutic vaccines in the design of the immunogenic sequence. Vaccines addressing full-length or large fragments of HIV genes, based on the “more immunogenicity” criteria, have failed to prove clinical efficacy. Targeting “conserved epitopes”, those maintained after different mutations, has also been considered. It has been confirmed that it is the response to “beneficial regions” the one that correlates with higher potency in inhibiting viral load in vitro.