npj Vaccines, 2018, Vol.3(1), pp.2-2
First identified as the etiological agent behind Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the early 1980s, HIV-1 has continued to spread into a global pandemic and major public health concern. Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy at reducing HIV-1 viremia and preventing the dramatic CD4 T-cell collapse, infected individuals remain HIV positive for life. Unfortunately, it is increasingly clear that natural immunity is not, and may never be, protective against this pathogen. Therefore, efficacious vaccine interventions, which can either prevent infection or eradicate the latent viral reservoir and effect cure, are a major medical priority. Here we describe the development of a safe vaccine platform, currently being utilized in on-going prophylactic and therapeutic preclinical studies and consisting of highly heterogeneous virus-like particle formulations that represent the virus diversity within infected individuals. These VLPs contain no 5′LTR, no functional integrase, and have a severely mutated stem loop 1—thereby preventing any potential reverse transcription, integration, and RNA packaging. Furthermore, we demonstrate that these VLPs are morphologically identical to wild-type virus with polyvalent Env in a functional form. Finally, we show that the VLPs are antigenic and capable of generating strong immune recall responses.