Two New Antibodies Found To Cripple HIV

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Researchers at and associated with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), at The Scripps Research Institute, and at the biotechnology companies Theraclone Sciences and Monogram Biosciences have discovered two powerful new antibodies to HIV that reveal what may be an Achilles heel on the virus.

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Researchers will now try to exploit the newfound vulnerability on the virus to craft novel approaches to designing an AIDS vaccine. Moreover, the global collaboration and process that led to the discovery of the two new broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) are likely to produce more such antibodies, which may in turn reveal additional vulnerabilities of HIV, adding still more vitality to the effort to develop a vaccine against AIDS.

Broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV are produced by a minority of HIV-infected individuals and are distinct from other antibodies to HIV in that they neutralize a high percentage of the many types of HIV in circulation worldwide. It is widely believed that to prevent HIV infection an AIDS vaccine would need to teach the body to produce these powerful antibodies before exposure to the virus.

Animal experiments suggest that conceptually such a vaccine would work. Before this finding only four antibodies to HIV had been discovered that were widely agreed to be broadly neutralizing. The two newly discovered bNAbs, called PG9 and PG16, are the first to have been identified in more than a decade and are the first to have been isolated from donors in developing countries, where the majority of new HIV infections occur.

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