An HIV vaccine candidate that Oregon Health & Science University researchers have been developing for the past two decades is being tested in people for the first time as part of a Phase 1 clinical trial.
The investigational vaccine, called VIR-1111, is being evaluated in humans through a clinical trial sponsored by San Francisco-based Vir Biotechnology. Vir licensed OHSU’s cytomegalovirus-based vaccine platform through a merger with OHSU spinoff company TomegaVax in 2016.
OHSU scientists Louis Picker, M.D., Scott Hansen, Ph.D., Jay Nelson, Ph.D., and Klaus Frueh, Ph.D., are among Vir’s co-founders. They and many other researchers at OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute began developing the unique cytomegalovirus vaccine platform in the early 2000s. In addition to the virus that causes AIDS, the platform is also being explored as a way to deliver vaccines against infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, as well as cancer.
“Along with the many OHSU investigators who worked on this project over the years, we are very excited that this new vaccine platform is being evaluated in a clinical trial,” Picker and Frueh said. “This marks the first time that this new type of vaccine is being tested in humans. If successful, this approach will provide an entirely new set of tools for vaccine development.”
The new platform weaves tiny bits of a disease-causing pathogen such as HIV into a weakened form of a common herpes virus known as cytomegalovirus. Human cytomegalovirus triggers a strong response from immune cells called effector-memory T cells and has the potential to work better than standard vaccines for aggressive pathogens that infect quickly, overrun a person’s immune response or can hide from the immune system.
OHSU’s pre-clinical research into the cytomegalovirus-based HIV vaccine has shown it works well in nonhuman primates. A 2013 study published in Nature found the experimental vaccine completely cleared SIV, a monkey form of HIV, in about half of the rhesus macaques that were vaccinated and then exposed to the virus.
More information about the Phase 1 human clinical trial is available in the Vir news release. OHSU is not a site in the clinical trial and is not enrolling participants for this trial at this time.
Vir’s other co-founders include Larry Corey, M.D., former president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Robert Nelson, co-founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners; and Jay Parrish, Ph.D., Vir chief business officer.
The cytomegalovirus-based vaccine platform’s development was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of the Director, and the National Cancer Institute.
In our interest of ensuring the integrity of our research and as part of our commitment to public transparency, OHSU actively regulates, tracks and manages relationships that our researchers may hold with entities outside of OHSU. In regards to this research, OHSU and Picker, Hansen, Nelson and Frueh have a significant financial interest in Vir Biotechnology Inc., a company that may have a commercial interest in the results of this research and technology.