Alexandra Trkola, Professor of Medical Virology at the University of Zurich, has been awarded a 3-year grant (INV-061559) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the project “RENEW clinical studies in people with HIV”. Together with her co-principal investigators Huldrych Günthard (University Hospital Zurich and UZH), Penny Moore (University of the Witwatersrand and NICD, South Africa) and Nigel Garrett (Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, CAPRISA) she heads a multi-national study to explore a novel concept to evaluate HIV vaccine candidates. The project consists of two harmonized immunization trials, one in Switzerland and one in South Africa, that recruit 30 participants each from demographically distinct cohorts of people living with HIV, the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and the CAPRISA cohort.
Alexandra Trkola and her colleagues will assess a safe and efficient way to conduct in vivo tests of potential preventive and therapeutic HIV vaccines. The goal is to stimulate the production of broadly neutralizing antibodies by administering the vaccines to people with HIV who are undergoing antiretroviral therapy and are virally suppressed. The project extends and capitalizes on decades of research by Alexandra Trkola and her team. Her work focuses on in-depth exploration of HIV-1 infection, HIV’s evasion strategies against the human immune system, and the development of antibodies with the capability to neutralize and, consequently, eliminate the virus.
With this grant, Alexandra Trkola will join the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery (CAVD), an international network of Gates-funded researchers dedicated to developing novel HIV vaccines and advancing promising candidates into clinical trials. CAVD promotes collaboration, the sharing of scientific information, and the standardization of research methods to accelerate progress in AIDS vaccine development. Through CAVD, the foundation provides the immunogen and adjuvants for the RENEW trial in addition to the three million USD grant awarded to cover the clinical safety assessment and basic immunogenicity analysis.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was launched in 2000 and is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. In the past, the foundation has already pledged substantial funds to support the development of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS.
Trkola A, Moore PL. Vaccinating people living with HIV: a fast track to preventive and therapeutic HIV vaccines. Lancet Infectious Diseases. 23 October 2023. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(23)00481-4