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Dr. Julie McElrath in her lab. McElrath will oversee the Fred Hutch arm of the trial. (Fred Hutch Photo)

The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind clinical trial Tuesday that will test a new HIV vaccine candidate.

The candidate, called eOD-GT8 60mer, uses what scientists call a structure-based vaccine approach and the trial marks the first time this approach will be tested in humans. Scientists are hopeful that it could be a key step in developing an HIV vaccine.

“The world urgently needs new ways to prevent HIV infection, and chief among these is a vaccine,” IAVI President and CEO Dr. Mark Feinberg said in a statement. “Fortunately, a new generation of HIV immunogen candidates, including eOD-GT8 60mer, is entering clinical trials. These candidates are being developed using highly sophisticated and elegant vaccine science and provide a precedent for vaccine strategies targeting the induction of specific immune responses believed to be critical in protecting against HIV infection.”

The trial will take place at just two sites in this early phase, including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. That arm of the study will be overseen by Dr. Julie McElrath, the director of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutch. The second arm will be conducted at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The study is also engaging another Seattle health icon: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation is supporting the study alongside the National Institutes of Health and Scripps Research.

This candidate is unique because it prompts a person’s immune system to develop proteins that could protect them against AIDS.

The vaccine will be tested in 48 healthy volunteers and, in addition to proving it is safe for humans to use, scientists also hope to see that it prompts the desired response from the participant’s immune system. Results from the trial are expected late in 2019.

This study is just one of many that is hoping to discover a vaccine for HIV. The Fred Hutch’s HIV Vaccine Trials Network is involved with many of the trials currently underway.

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