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A novel vaccine targeting the viral protease cleavage sites protects Mauritian cynomolgus macaques against vaginal SIVmac251 infection

By Hongzhao Li, Robert W. Omange, Binhua Liang, Nikki Toledo, Yan Hai, Lewis R Liu, Dane Schalk, Jose Crecente-Campo, Tamara G Dacoba, Andrew B Lambe, So-Yon Lim, Lin Li, Mohammad Abul Kashem, Yanmin Wan, Jorge F. Correia-Pinto, Xiao Qing Liu, Robert F Balshaw, Qingsheng Li, Nancy Schultz-Darken, Maria J Alonso, James B Whitney, Francis A Plummer, Ma Luo

Posted 15 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/842955

After over three decades of research, an effective anti-HIV vaccine remains elusive. Unconventional and novel vaccine strategies are needed. Here, we report that a vaccine focusing the immune response on the sequences surrounding the 12 viral protease cleavage sites (PCSs) provides greater than 80% protection of Mauritian cynomolgus macaques (MCMs) against repeated intravaginal SIVmac251 challenges. The PCS-specific T cell responses are correlated with vaccine efficacy. The PCS vaccine does not induce immune activation and inflammation known to be associated with increased susceptibility to HIV infection. Machine learning analyses revealed that the immune environment generated by the PCS vaccine predicts vaccine efficacy. Our study demonstrates for the first time that a novel vaccine which targets viral maturation, but lacks full Env and Gag proteins as immunogens, can prevent intravaginal infection in a highly stringent NHP/SIV challenge model. Targeting HIV maturation thus offers a novel approach to developing an effective HIV vaccine. One Sentence Summary The anti-PCS T cell responses and the immune environment induced by the novel PCS vaccine are key correlates of vaccine efficacy

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