New Frontiers in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure

April 21, 2015

It’s time to take an active interest in “passive immunization”—a scientific term for an expanding area of research that’s highly relevant to treatment, prevention and cure work. There are trials in humans happening in many regions of the world—and data are beginning to come in that advocates need to understand, analyze and consider.

AVAC hosted a webinar, New Frontiers in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure—An advocate’s webinar on passive immunization with a presentation from Dr. Sarah Schlesinger of Rockefeller University. Dr. Schlesinger provided an overview of recent developments across the field including new published data.

Downloads: Slides (PDF) / Audio (MP3) / Animation (Flash)

This webinar was just one in our year-long series, HIV Prevention on the Line. View webinars from the full series here.

The term passive immunization refers to the administration of laboratory-generated antibodies to people. It’s different from vaccine strategies, which teach our bodies how to make antibodies for ourselves.

Dr. Schlesinger is one of the authors of a recent study on passive immunization of a broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) called 3BNC117 in both HIV-negative individuals and people living with HIV. This was the first trial in humans of this particular bNAB. At least three other bNABs are currently in early phase clinical trials in humans. This research pipeline is exploring how passive immunization might be used as a treatment (to control HIV in people living with the virus); as a cure (to help clear HIV from viral reservoirs in people living with HIV); and as prevention.

Dr. Schlesinger provided a basic introduction to bNAbs and the ways that they are being studied, and described the work that she and her colleagues have recently published.

Further Reading
The most potent antibodies against HIV are known as broadly neutralizing antibodies—immune responses generated by a handful of people living with HIV. Scientists have analyzed blood from many people living with HIV and in a few have been able to find these bNABs that can block the activity of wide range of strains of HIV. In recent years, scientists have isolated a range of these potent bNAbs and have worked to modify them to make them even more effective, reduce the size of the dose needed for impact, and ensure that they are delivered to the sites of exposure—e.g., the vagina and rectum in the case of sexual exposure—where protection is needed most. Click here to see AVAC’s “Passive Immunization for Busy Advocates” resource, and click here for a recent presentation from Dr. Penny Moore at AVAC’s Advocacy Partners’ Forum.

Passive immunization using bNAbs is one of several strategies that is being explored for both prevention in people who are HIV-negative as well as treatment and cure strategies for people living with HIV. Long-acting injectable ARVs are also being studied in both populations, as are traditional vaccines. Want to understand the differences and the pipelines? Check out the section on injectable prevention in the recently released AVAC Report—and keep an eye out for the next issue of Px Wire, which will feature an extensive discussion of this expanding arena. Also, Richard Jefferys of the Treatment Action Group just published An HIV Cure and a Vaccine within the Next 15 Years?, a terrific overview of key concepts.