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Imbokodo trial must compel us to adequately resource efforts to find an HIV vaccine

Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson and its global partners announced that they would discontinue the large-scale Imbokodo HIV vaccine trial. Initial results showed that the vaccine did not provide significant protection against HIV acquisition in young women in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this disappointing news, IAS – the International AIDS Society – emphasizes the importance of continued investment and engagement in trials to find an effective vaccine. There is still a lot to be learned from this specific study.

“We always hope for vaccine trials to result in a breakthrough because a vaccine for HIV is so direly needed. But let us not forget that the process of trial and error is the path of science,” IAS President Adeeba Kamarulzaman said. [Last updated 02 November 2022 Editor’s note: As of 02 August 2022, Adeeba Kamarulzaman is IAS Immediate Past President].

The IAS recognizes the vital contribution of all stakeholders who contributed to the success of the scientific enquiry of the collaborative and complex study, especially the women who participated in the trial.

“My message to all involved is that these efforts were not in vain. This study offers pathways for further research that may yet prove critical,” Kamarulzaman added. “We particularly congratulate the study teams who have done a remarkable job to undertake the study during the challenges posed to data collection and analysis during COVID-19.”

“This has been a well-designed and well-conducted study, and there will be critical data coming from it, including probing the immune response generated by the vaccine, that will help guide future efforts,” Susan Buchbinder, IAS Governing Council member and protocol Co-Chair for the Imbokodo trial, said.

“With the additional insights gained in the COVID-19 response, with concerted backing by funders and continued research, and with the political will needed, I am certain that an HIV vaccine is achievable,’’ Buchbinder added. “The IAS will continue to foster collaboration and work with partners to provide the necessary support for the development of an HIV vaccine.”

A parallel companion study, the Phase 3 Mosaico trial, will test the safety and efficacy of a different vaccine regimen among men who have sex with men and trans individuals in North America, Latin America and Europe.