The Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative(KAVI) Institute of Clinical Research will this month conduct a clinical trial of a novel HIV vaccine candidate, known as HIVconsvX.

The HIV vaccine candidate was developed by the University of Oxford, which started Phase I of the trial last month at the institution.

The trial, known as HIV-CORE 006, has since started in Lusaka, Zambia, and will extend to Uganda in the coming weeks.

The Phase 1 trial aims to measure the vaccine’s safety, the tolerability of any side effects, and overall effectiveness.

Dr Walter Jaoko, the KAVI director and trial principal investigator, said the new candidate’s strength is its ability to teach the body’s cells to attack the parts of HIV that seldom or never change, even when the virus mutates.

“Preventive vaccines, especially those that provide durable protection against all major HIV subtypes, would be a powerful tool for people not able to access or use existing prevention options. This is why it remains a priority that we design and evaluate novel vaccine approaches,” Dr Jaoko said.

The trial will involve 88 healthy, HIV-negative adults, aged between 18 and 55, who are considered not to be at high risk of infection. They will receive one dose of the vaccine, followed by a booster dose after four weeks.

While most HIV vaccine candidates work by inducing antibodies generated by B-cells, HIVconsvX induces the immune system’s potent, pathogen obliterating T cells, targeting them to highly conserved and therefore vulnerable regions of HIV – an “Achilles heel” common to most HIV variants.

Dr. Vincent Muturi-Kioi, medical director at International Aids Vaccine Initiative, said: “It is crucial that we have a diverse pipeline of HIV vaccine candidates that target both the antibody and T-cell arms of the immune system.

“HIVconsvX represents an exciting new hypothesis in engaging the killer T-cell arm to prevent HIV infection.”

Researchers aim to report the results of the HIV-CORE 006 trial by the end of next year.