Johnson & Johnson and partners will work to create an HIV Vaccine

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Today is #WorldAIDSDay, a day when the world’s focus is on  the fight against HIV/AIDS.

There are already a number of medications on the market to help ease symptoms of HIV.According to the World Health Organization, since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began more than 30 years ago, over 70 million people have contracted HIV.  No vaccine exists to help prevent this life-threatening disease. But there’s hope on this front.

Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health and others, has begun the first efficacy trial of an investigational mosaic HIV-1 preventive vaccine. This “mosaic” would likely be comprised of various genes that would be manipulated in order to produce an effective vaccine.

“Developing a vaccine against HIV is a top priority and our best hope for a world without AIDS. Finding an effective HIV vaccine to protect people at risk has been a major scientific challenge, but today there is new optimism that we can get there,” said Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr Paul Stoffels, M.D..

The new, large-scale study (HVTN 705/HPX2008) (also known as “Imbokodo”, the Zulu word for “rock”) will study the effectiveness of the vaccine produced by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a part of Johnson & Johnson. It will evaluate whether the vaccine regimen is safe and if it’s able to reduce the incidence of HIV infection among 2,600 women in sub-Saharan Africa.

The problem with developing any vaccine so far has been that there are many strains and subtypes of the virus that causes HIV/AIDS, and different strains are common in different parts of the world, which has posed challenges. The mosaic vaccine the “Imbokodo” study is focusing on was developed based on a variety of HIV subtypes.

“The ultimate goal is to deliver a ‘global vaccine’ that could be deployed in any geographic region to help protect vulnerable populations at risk of infection,” Johan Van Hoof, M.D., Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. and Therapeutic Area Head, R&D, Infectious Diseases & Vaccines said.

If the vaccine proves safe and successful, it could save millions of lives. Let’s hope for them to discover what it takes to finally create a life-saving preventative.

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