HIV vaccine fails efficacy trial

Aug. 31, 2021

In another setback in the quest to eradicate HIV, a vaccine developed by J&J has flunked an efficacy trial in Africa.

According to the company, data from the trial, involving 2,600 women from South Africa and four neighboring countries, showed that the vaccine was about 25% effective — not high enough to offer meaningful inoculation.

Despite the setback, a J&J trial of an HIV vaccine with a slightly different formula is still underway in the Americas and Europe involving 3,800 men. 

“We don’t give up,” Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer, said.

The trial flop is the latest heartbreak to impact the HIV vaccine pipeline. Last year, a trial for an HIV vaccine called HVTN702 was halted due to low efficacy.  The four-year trial, which cost near $100 million to run, involved about 5,400 participants in South Africa. Despite showing early promise a decade earlier, it was ultimately shown to be about 31% effective.

Both J&J’s recently halted study and its ongoing trial combine four doses of two vaccines — one is an adenovirus vector shot and the other uses a genetically engineered version of HIV’s surface protein.