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The AELIX-002 study group research was awarded the European Hector Research Award in HIV for research on the therapeutic vaccine against HIV. The researchers include Prof Tomáš Hanke, Professor of Vaccine Immunology at the Jenner Institute at NDM.

The H.W. & J. Hector Foundation, Germany, created and announced a prize for European HIV research in 2019. The award recognizes annually significant scientific achievements in the field of HIV research. This year’s winners were announced during the European AIDS Conference, which took place in Poland in October.

This year, the best basic science prize was awarded to the AELIX-002 study group led by Dr Jose Malto from the Hospital Germans Trias, Barcelona, for the results of the clinical trial AELIX-002 conducted with the therapeutic vaccine against HIV from AELIX Therapeutics conceived at IrsiCaixa. The results were published in Nature Medicine in October 2022. The multinational group of researchers included the HIV Research and Pharmacology team at the Fight Infections Foundation, Barcelona and infectious disease physicians at Hospital Germans Trias, Barcelona.

The goal of this vaccine is to stimulate similar immune responses to those found in individuals naturally controlling HIV without antiretroviral treatment. The group had codesigned and constructed these vaccines by inserting the IrsiCaixa’s HIV T-cell Immunogen (HTI) into Oxford’s in-man-proven ChAdOx1 and MVA vectors.

“We have a long-standing collaboration with the Barcelona team. I like their killer T-cell immunogen and was more than happy to insert it into our ChAdOx1 and MVA vectors for efficient delivery to the immune system.” said Prof Hanke. “The world needs an HIV vaccine.”

The AELIX-002 trial tested the HTI vaccines in 45 people living with HIV who durably suppressed HIV replication by antiretroviral medication. The main goal was to assess the safety and immunogenicity of the combination of the DNA.HTI, MVA.HTI, and ChAdOx1.HTI vaccine regimen.

The results showed that the vaccines were well tolerated, refocused killer T cells on more protective epitopes and showed in a subgroup of participants that those who generated a stronger immune response were able to remain without antiretroviral treatment for longer periods of time and with a lower viral load compared to those who did not receive the vaccine or did not respond to the vaccination. This finding indicates that the HTI vaccines can re-educate the immune system towards more protective responses and paves the way for their further development extending the drug-free post-treatment control.