How the Covid jab paved the way for a promising new HIV vaccine trial

ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan has met the scientists behind the trial and those taking part

We’ve got used to reading about vaccine trials, following their progress, hearing the results and watching the rollout of said vaccines. I am, of course, talking about the Covid vaccines.

What we’re perhaps not quite so familiar with are HIV vaccine trials. It won’t be a surprise to anyone that there have been hundreds of vaccine trials and so far, none have been successful.

Their success is perhaps best measured by how much they taught the scientists behind them about what works and what doesn’t.

That’s why this latest HIV vaccine trial is so important.

This vaccine 'would be a huge success and very exciting' says Dr Paola Cicconi, chief investigator on the trial

The scientists working on this vaccine are focusing on trying to prompt the body to make antibodies, as well as potent T cells which hunt down and then kill the virus.

Making antibodies alone has not worked in the past, so this new vaccine is targeting a T cell response.

How the vaccine works by targeting spike proteins

Unlike most other viruses, HIV is constantly mutating, which is why a jab or a cure have so far been elusive.

Professor Tomáš Hanke, the lead scientist, is making a vaccine that targets the regions of the virus that don’t mutate - they are vulnerable to killer T cells because they don’t change.

How does the vaccine work? Prof Hanke explains

Prof Hanke works at Oxford University, where the Covid vaccine was developed, and is using the same technique as the Covid jab.

DNA from the HIV virus will be put into the vaccine and will be delivered into the body via a genetically modified chimpanzee adenovirus.

This new strategy is what makes this trial so exciting, it’s being tested in HIV negative people for prevention, but also HIV positive patients for a cure.

'I can contribute a little bit to the human rights cause' says trial participant Danilo Garrido Alves

Monday marks the first day of Phase 1 trials.

That simply means 13 people in the UK will be injected with the vaccine to test its safety.

They will get a booster four weeks later, while volunteers in parts of Africa will do the same.

Results for this aren’t expected until April next year, but if successful Phase 2 will begin and thousands of people will be recruited from across the world.

'It's extraordinary. When I was diagnosed there was nothing' Jonathan Blake was diagnosed with HIV in 1982

Forty years after HIV was first discovered we have certainly come a long way.

What everyone wants to know, however, is whether this new vaccine technology will bring us closer towards prevention or even a cure for HIV.