IAVI REPORT – VOL. 15, NO. 2, 2011
We devote most of this issue to coverage from two of the year’s top scientific conferences on HIV. The first, the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) was held from February 27 to March 2. Then, from March 20 to 25, the joint Keystone Symposia, “HIV Evolution, Genomics and Pathogenesis,” and “Protection from HIV,” were held in Whistler, British Columbia.
The research presented at these conferences ran the gamut, literally, from A to Z. A, as in APOBEC3, a growing family of host restriction factors that researchers have discovered can act against HIV (see A Flurry of Updates from Keystone), and Z, as in zinc finger nucleases, an enzyme used to engineer cells that are resistant to HIV. This gene therapy approach tries to recapitulate the success of the so-called Berlin patient, the first individual that many researchers say has been cured of HIV (see A PrEP Rally).
At both meetings, updates on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—the use of antiretrovirals administered either orally or topically to try to protect against HIV infection—were high on the agenda. At CROI, it was the most talked about area of research, turning the meeting into what we like to call a PrEP rally.
Another topic discussed at both conferences was antibodies against HIV. At CROI, several HIV vaccine researchers presented data on the role of broadly neutralizing antibodies, as well as non-neutralizing antibodies, in protecting against HIV infection in nonhuman primates. At the Keystone Symposia, there were updates on efforts to identify broadly neutralizing antibodies and their precursors using genetic sequencing.
When we’ve written about the Keystone symposia in the past, it has been tempting to compare the uphill battles of HIV prevention research, and vaccine development in particular, to scaling the rugged and mountainous terrain where these meetings often occur. But this year, the mood was different, and we were left searching for an appropriate analogy. The HIV vaccine field has been invigorated by the first evidence of vaccine-induced protection against HIV and many promising antibody-related developments, and the HIV prevention field as a whole has experienced somewhat of a resurgence. Although it may not be a downhill race just yet, researchers are trying to capitalize on all of this success.
Also in this issue, we highlight the start of a vaccine trial, the departure of IAVI’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, Seth Berkley, and the early closure of an oral PrEP trial in women (see Vaccine Briefs).
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—Kristen Jill Kresge, Managing Editor