HIV research has found new footing. A new treatment has been tested successfully in monkeys as a potentially effective HIV vaccine.

Scripps Research Institute immunologist Michael Farzan, describes “Our compound is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far.” The lead researcher continues, “Unlike antibodies, which fail to neutralize a large fraction of HIV-1 strains, our protein has been effective against all strains tested, raising the possibility it could offer an effective HIV vaccine alternative.”

Farzan adds, “This is the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of work on the biochemistry of how HIV enters cells. When we did our original work on CCR5, people thought it was interesting, but no one saw the therapeutic potential. That potential is starting to be realized.”

Matthew Gardner, also of the Scripps Research Institute comments “When antibodies try to mimic the receptor, they touch a lot of other parts of the viral envelope that HIV can change with ease.” The lead study author goes on to say, “We’ve developed a direct mimic of the receptors without providing many avenues that the virus can use to escape, so we catch every virus thus far.”

UK National Aids Trust director of policy and campaigns, Yusef Azad, notes: “This is an exciting piece of research with what appear to be striking results. Of course further research is needed before we can know how it might be applied to humans. But for any infectious disease, including HIV, a vaccine remains the most effective way of controlling an epidemic and in the long run eradicating the infection. We still lack an HIV vaccine. Any steps forward towards an HIV vaccine must be warmly welcomed.”

This has been impressive work, indeed. Farzan concludes, “We are closer than any other approach to universal protection, but we still have hurdles, primarily with safety for giving it to many, many people.”