May Episode of Px Pulse Podcast: HIV vaccine science, research, updates and advocacy

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With HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD) in the spotlight earlier this month, AVAC’s May episode of Px Pulse features four experts steeped in HIV vaccine research. Together they help set expectations for where the field is now and where it is going.

Dr. Larry Corey, who leads the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), explains how the AMP studies, HVTN 702 and HVTN 705 will each, in different ways, advance what the field knows about how to develop a vaccine for HIV.

Then, IAVI’s Dr. Kundai Chinyenze talks about efforts to ready for possible success, so that new tools work in the real world as well as they do in a clinical trial.

And two deeply experienced advocates, Bill Snow and Matthew Rose, talk about engaging with the science and preparing for research results.

For the full podcast, highlights and resources (including AVAC’s newest HIV Vaccine Awareness Day toolkit), visit here. Subscribe on iTunes to catch every episode!

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day 2018: Tools & more

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, May 18, commemorates the vital and ongoing work to develop a vaccine against HIV. This work advances because of the ingenuity, courage and commitment of trial participants, host communities, funders, scientists and advocates. AVAC salutes the collective trust and sustained dedication to end the epidemic.

2018 is marked by great advances in research and important opportunities for advocacy. In addition to a host of tools AVAC updates annually to keep you current on this front, The Rise of Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies by AVAC founder and former Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise executive director Bill Snow offers a comprehensive look at antibody mediated prevention and its connection to vaccine research.

In case you missed it, check out the recording and slides from the May 17 webinar featuring Dr. Sandhya Vasan’s discussion on the legacy of RV144 and vaccine advocate Mark Hubbard’s take on today’s agenda for HIV vaccine advocacy.

The complete set of AVAC’s HVAD resources includes:

And add to the conversation on social media at #HIVvaccineAware and #HVAD2018.

The Rise of Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies

Bill Snow founded AVAC and is the former Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise Executive Director.

Research on broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) is taking the field of HIV prevention science in new directions, with implications for new prevention interventions and vaccine development. There’s much to know and much to learn about these powerful instruments of the immune system.

Since 2016, more than 2,700 men in Brazil, Peru, Switzerland and the US, and 1,900 women in Southern Africa have begun to enroll in clinical trials looking at antibody-mediated prevention, or AMP (see Figure 1). A collaboration between the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) and HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) (both funded by the National Institutes of Health), the AMP studies test the safety and efficacy of the broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) VRC01 when it is given every 8 weeks to reduce the risk of HIV infection. But how did this approach come about, why is it important and what may happen next with bNAbs for HIV prevention?

Click to enlarge.

What’s an antibody?

Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins produced by B cells to clear infected cells and pathogens in the bloodstream. B cells are part of what is known as the adaptive immune system, which mounts defenses aimed at specific invaders—like a cold virus or chicken pox or HIV. The innate immune system also defends against invaders, but its defenses are not so finely tailored to a specific pathogen. When a virus encounters the right B cell, the B cell begins cloning itself and produces antibodies designed to battle that virus. These antibodies circulate throughout the body looking for the virus, and they evolve continuously, becoming ever more precise and numerous.

The Antibody Hierarchy

Here are some terms that will help you follow this ongoing story:

  • Antibody: Proteins produced by B cells as a major part of the adaptive human immune defense against specific invaders.
  • Binding antibody: An antibody that attaches to a virus but doesn’t necessarily render it ineffective; can be driven by the innate immune system.
  • Monoclonal antibody: A bioengineered antibody made in a manufacturing facility by copying (cloning) one original antibody—selected for its potency and other characteristics.
  • Neutralizing antibody: Antibody that disables virus.
  • Broadly neutralizing antibody: An antibody that neutralizes many different genetic variants of HIV.
  • Passive antibodies: A dose of monoclonal antibodies that are infused or injected, rather than made by one’s own immune system.

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day: In May 2018, the story is…

HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), May 18, is just a week away. Today, we’re bringing you AVAC’s annual HVAD Toolkit, a new advocacy resource—The Story Is…, and our HVAD webinar announcement!

AVAC’s HVAD 2018 webinar, to be held on Thursday, May 17, 9am ET, will tell the current story of HIV vaccine research from two perspectives. Dr. Sandhya Vasan of the Military HIV Research Program in Thailand will give her take on the world of HIV vaccine research since RV144: from where have we come, and where are we going? Mark Hubbard, a seasoned vaccine advocate and community representative for HIV research in Nashville, Tennessee will tell the story from a community and advocacy perspective: what are today’s current successes and challenges, and how are community members pushing the HIV vaccine agenda? Register now.

We’re especially excited in this year’s HVAD Toolkit to bring you a set of infographics that explain key aspects of vaccine research—trial participant and enrollment numbers, global funding, trials timelines, and more. We also have updated versions of old favorites you’ve come to expect each year, all available online at

So, what is the story this year for HVAD? The story is the science, with an unprecedented level of vaccine and antibody clinical activity underway. But it’s not only the science—there are other important stories to tell as well, about global support for vaccine research in a time when there are many priorities in HIV prevention, and about stakeholder engagement in the current trial context. AVAC is publishing a special advocacy document, The Story Is…, which explores all this with an eye on primary prevention and the central role that research must play in it. Download it here.

As always, AVAC hopes these tools prove useful for HVAD events in your communities around the world. We know many of you are hard at work for HVAD, and we can’t wait to hear your stories, too.

New Issue! Px Wire: The prevention question cascade

In the new issue of Px Wire, AVAC gives our take on this year’s PEPFAR process for establishing the Country Operational Plans (COPs). These plans define what work will be done with PEPFAR money at the country level and how that work will be evaluated in each of the 63 countries that receive PEPFAR money.

The process has changed considerably since last year, allowing for deeper insights into what’s working and what’s not. In this issue, AVAC takes you through the good and bad of PEPFAR’s emphasis on index testing, analyzes crucial gaps in combination prevention, and lays out a series of questions to shape a powerful agenda for advocacy.

This issue’s centerspread takes a closer look at Zimbabwe’s data, and highlights amfAR’s detailed country factsheets that draw from PEPFAR’s giant data sets. Additional tools and information on influencing the COPs process are available from COMPASS partner Health GAP’s PEPFAR Watch.

Find the full issue Px Wire and the archive of past issues at