Antibodies Dominate HIV Prevention Meeting - Excitement over robust investigational pipeline

The field of HIV vaccine research was reinvigorated 7 years ago with the results of a trial that -- for the first time -- showed efficacy for a vaccine candidate.

The so-called RV144 study found only modest efficacy but it was a start. A large clinical trial aimed at improving the results, perhaps to the point of getting a product that could be used in the clinic, is now beginning in South Africa.

But there's a lot more going on in HIV vaccine research, much of it building on studies "broadly neutralizing" antibodies -- molecules that inhibit a broad spectrum of HIV subtypes. In theory, at least, these could be infused directly to prevent infection, but the practical challenges have made a vaccine approach -- generating broadly neutralizing antibodies continuously and endogenously -- more attractive.

There are now more than 100 such molecules known "and they're good," says Cynthia Derdeyn, PhD, of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta. The plethora of antibodies is striking given that "a few years ago we didn't even know they existed," she added. Dr. Derdeyn is a faculty member in the IMP and MMG programs.

Knowing that such antibodies exist is one step toward finding ways to make the human body generate them, and that in turn is a step toward the holy grail of HIV prevention -- an effective vaccine.

That's why antibody research is dominating the HIV Research for Prevention conference here, Derdeyn and others told MedPage Today.

"This is a much more exciting time for antibodies and antibody-mediated protection than I have ever experienced," Derdeyn said.

Click here to view the full story in MedPage Today.