Researchers halt ‘ineffective’ HIV vaccine trial led by Fred Hutch with Gates Foundation backing

HIV trial vaccination
A participant in the South African HIV vaccine trial receives a shot at a clinic. (NIAID via YouTube)

A three-year-long clinical trial of an HIV vaccine in South Africa, funded in part by the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by a consortium headquartered at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been put on hold because the vaccine was judged ineffective.

  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, announced today that it has stopped administering vaccinations in the HVTN 702 trial, also known as Uhambo. The cost of the trial, involving more than 5,400 enrolled volunteers at 14 sites across South Africa, has been estimated at roughly $120 million — with funding coming from NIAID, the Gates Foundation and the South African Medical Research Council. The trial was conducted by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, headquartered at Fred Hutch, with additional resources provided by Sanofi Pasteur, GSK and the U.S. Military HIV Research Program.
  • Researchers had high hopes for the study when it began in late 2016, because the prospective vaccine was based on a formulation that showed promising results during a clinical trial in Thailand. But last month, an analysis of interim data showed that 129 HIV infections occurred among 2,694 participants who received the vaccine, while 123 HIV infections occurred among 2.689 participants who received an inactive placebo injection instead. Because there was no statistically significant difference, an independent panel concluded that the vaccine showed no efficacy.
  • Despite advances in HIV treatment, an estimated 1.7 million people worldwide become newly infected each year with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic, and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work,” NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said in today’s news release. “Regrettably, it does not.” Although there’ll be no more vaccinations in this trial, researchers are continuing follow-up studies — and the Hutch-led network is continuing trials of other methods for heading off HIV.

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