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Advancing an HIV vaccine; advancing vaccinology

Of any pathogen, HIV provides perhaps the greatest challenge to successful vaccine development. Nevertheless, progress continued to be made in 2018; new vaccine concepts entered the clinic and new insights were obtained in basic research that will ultimately help to guide rational vaccine design against many ‘difficult’ pathogens.

Key advances

  • The fusion peptide of HIV Envelope (Env) has emerged as a potential vaccine target.

  • Naive B cell precursor frequencies and antigen affinities are crucial in considering the likelihood of success with a germline-targeting immunogen.

  • Off-target responses to immunogens can be reduced by glycan masking of irrelevant epitopes.

  • Neutralization, but not other immune parameters, correlates with HIV trimer vaccine-induced protection against viral challenge in a monkey model.

  • Electron microscopy is a rapid method to determine the specificities present in a polyclonal antibody response following vaccination or infection.

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Thanks to S. Crotty, L. Hangartner, J. Mascola and A. Ward for comments on the manuscript and to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for financial support.

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Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Correspondence to Dennis R. Burton.

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Fig. 1: A sequential HIV immunization strategy.