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Most antibody-related talks at the meeting stressed the importance of broadly neutralizing antibodies for protection from HIV infection. But Olga Malykhina from Tom Hope’s lab at Northwestern University said that antibodies that just bind to HIV might be sufficient for preventing infection. 

Antibodies continued to be a major theme here at the Keystone Symposia on HIV Vaccines and B Cell Development and Function, when Barney Graham of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the NIH gave an overview of projects at the NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center that involve passive immunization with broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). The advantage of passive immunization is clear: There is no wait until a vaccine induces highly affinity matured bNAbs, which can take a long time to develop. 

When Georgia Tomaras of Duke University Medical Center opened this year’s HIV Vaccines Keystone symposium last night, she said this is the first ever HIV Vaccines meeting that is held jointly with a meeting on B cell development and function. Given the many new antibody-related advances the field has seen in recent years, this is not exactly surprising. “We now have an increasingly detailed map of the vulnerable sites on HIV Envelope, due to an array of newly discovered broadly neutralizing antibodies and the identification of their targets,” said Tomaras, who is the co-organizer of the HIV Vaccines track of the conference. “Research focused on basic B cell biology is the foundation for the development of an HIV vaccine designed to drive the B cell arm of the immune response.”