Doctors Beatriz Mothe and Lucía Bailón from the HIV Research, Vaccines, Immunotherapies, and Pharmacology team at the Fight Infections Foundation and infectious disease physicians at Hospital Germans Trias have been awarded the «European Hector Research Award in HIV 2023» for the results of the clinical trial AELIX-002 conducted with the therapeutic vaccine against HIV from AELIX Therapeutics, designed at IrsiCaixa by Doctors Christian Brander, Anuska Llano, and Beatriz Mothe. The results were published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine in October 2022, and the project received support from the Glòria Soler Foundation, among others. The goal of this vaccine is to stimulate the immune system similarly to how individuals who naturally control the HIV virus without antiretroviral treatment do.
The AELIX-002 study demonstrated that the vaccines were not only safe but also capable of modifying the immune response against HIV in the volunteers who received them. Furthermore, those participants who generated a stronger immune response were able to remain without antiretroviral treatment for longer periods of time and with a lower viral load compared to those who did not receive the vaccine or did not respond to the treatment. This finding indicates that the vaccine can educate the immune system to enhance the response against the virus and paves the way for the use of HTI vaccines in combination with other agents to achieve a greater response in more participants.
«The positive results of this trial demonstrate that it is possible to induce an immune response in a person living with HIV that allows them to improve virus suppression in the absence of antiretroviral medication», said Dr. Beatriz Mothe, a physician and researcher at the Fight Infections Foundation and the AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa. She also served as the principal investigator of the study.
The study participants received two rounds of vaccination, followed by a temporary interruption of antiretroviral treatment. During the interruption phase, they were assessed weekly to determine the amount of virus in their blood, and if it increased significantly, treatment was immediately resumed. The researchers found that, among the participants with no genetic predisposition to spontaneously control HIV, 8 participants (40%) were able to remain without treatment for the 6-month duration of the interruption phase. In contrast, in the placebo group, all but 1 participant (8%) resumed treatment according to the protocol criteria.
European Hector Research Award in HIV
In 2019, Jürgen Rockstroh, a professor of medicine and head of HIV at the University of Bonn in Germany, created and announced an award for European HIV research. The award recognizes significant scientific achievements in the field of HIV research achieved during the year. The winners are announced during the European AIDS Conference, which this year takes place in the city of Warsaw, Poland, during the current month of October. Doctors Bailón and Mothe have expressed their gratitude for the perseverance of all the researchers involved in the project, as well as the entire team at AELIX Therapeutics for their trust. Finally, they have given special mention to all the participants and their families for their involvement in the research, without which the study would not have been possible, especially during the challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic.