BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

March 16, 2020

Research Roundup: Coronavirus vaccine trial starts, second patient cured of HIV, and new collaboration fills data gap on use of antimalarials in pregnancy

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Patrick McKern

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A clinical trial to test an experimental vaccine against the novel coronavirus is expected to kick off today. This initial trial will inject 45 healthy participants with different doses of the vaccine candidate co-developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The goal for the initial trial is to check that the vaccine shows no worrisome safety side effects in order to set the stage for larger efficacy tests. Public health officials say it may take up to 18 months to fully validate the potential vaccine. Dozens of research groups and companies are racing to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. A second vaccine candidates from Inovio Pharmaceuticals is expected to begin safety tests next month.

A man initially known as the “London Patient” has become only the second person in the world to be cured of HIV. The man, Adam Castillejo, has decided to go public with his identity one year after being declared free of the virus and now 30 months after ceasing antiretroviral therapy. Mr. Castillejo was cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell treatment for cancer. The donors of these stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr. Castillejo, protection against HIV by preventing the virus from replicating inside the body. In 2011, Timothy Brown, the "Berlin Patient" became the first person reported as cured of HIV, three and one-half years after having similar treatment. Although this high-risk therapy was primarily used to treat the patients’ cancer—and is not a feasible treatment for millions living with HIV worldwide—it offers hope to finding a cure for HIV using gene therapy.

A new collaboration between Medicines for Malaria Venture and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine will establish pregnancy registries in malaria-endemic countries in Africa to fill the data gap on the use of antimalarials in one of the most vulnerable populations to malaria. The study will be conducted across three African countries and will capture data on the real-life use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)—the standard care for malaria— during all stages of pregnancy, including the first trimester. The goal of the study is to collect enough safety and exposure data that, if positive, would allow for policy change on the use of ACTs in the first trimester of pregnancy. ACTs are currently not recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy owing to a historic lack of safety data.

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