Moderna announced Thursday that it’s launched early-stage clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine.
The biotechnology company has teamed up with the nonprofit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop the shot, which uses the same technology as Moderna’s successful COVID-19 vaccine.
The first participants in the Phase I trial were given doses at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., according to a company statement.
“We are tremendously excited to be advancing this new direction in HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Dr. Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI, said in a statement. “The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challenging, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”
Nearly 38 million people worldwide — including about 1.3 million in the U.S — are living with HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, which can lead to the potentially fatal disease AIDS.
Being diagnosed with HIV was once considered a death sentence. During the height of the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the mid-1990s, more than 50,000 deaths occurred every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Today, HIV is much more manageable with medications that can reduce viral loads to undetectable so the virus can’t be transmitted, as well as pills that can be taken to prevent infecting those who are HIV-negative.