IAVI REPORT – VOL. 14, NO. 2, 2010

Vol. 14, No. 2 - Mar.-Apr. 2010Cover Art

Conference season is in full swing. In March, the Keystone Symposium on HIV Vaccines was held in Banff, Canada, following on the heels of the 17th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in February, and the Keystone Symposium on HIV Biology and Pathogenesis in January.

The HIV Vaccines meeting is widely considered to be the most important of the annual scientific gatherings on the topic, and is a highlight on the crowded conference calendars of many researchers. Discussions this year centered on characterization of the new crop of broadly neutralizing antibodies that were discovered over the past year (see Antibody Fever). As researchers scrutinize the structures of these antibodies and their binding sites on the virus, they are gaining valuable insights into how these antibodies are able to neutralize so well. At Keystone, researchers reported for the first time that some of these antibodies appear to be highly developed, having acquired several mutations through a process referred to as affinity maturation. This finding could have important implications for the design of vaccine immunogens based on these antibodies.

Other news related to antibodies also emerged from recently published research, suggesting that in addition to neutralizing free virus particles, antibodies may be able to block the cell-to-cell spread of HIV (see New Insights on Antibody Inhibition of Cell-associated HIV Spread).

In addition to these advances in basic research, the AIDS vaccine field is also gearing up for additional clinical studies based on the prime-boost regimen tested in the RV144 efficacy trial in Thailand, which provided the first evidence of vaccine-induced protection against HIV. Efficacy trials are both costly and complex to conduct, but given the largely surprising results that emerged from recent efficacy studies, many researchers argue that such trials are paramount to advancing HIV vaccine research (see Investing in Surprise). In this issue, we analyze the main factors that contribute to the high costs of clinical research.

We also explore how investigators involved in HVTN 505, an ongoing Phase II trial of a DNA/adenovirus prime-boost regimen, are using social networking sites to boost sluggish enrollment (see Investigators Tap Social Networking to Pique Interest in Vaccine Trial). It turns out there may be some hidden benefits to AIDS vaccine trials going viral.

—Kristen Jill Kresge, Managing Editor