HIVACAT T-cell immunogen (HTI) is a novel human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine immunogen designed to elicit cellular immune responses to HIV targets associated with viral control in humans. The AELIX-002 trial was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate as a primary objective the safety of a combination of DNA.HTI (D), MVA.HTI (M) and ChAdOx1.HTI (C) vaccines in 45 early-antiretroviral (ART)-treated individuals (44 men, 1 woman; NCT03204617). Secondary objectives included T-cell immunogenicity, the effect on viral rebound and the safety of an antiretroviral treatment interruption (ATI). Adverse events were mostly mild and transient. No related serious adverse events were observed. We show here that HTI vaccines were able to induce strong, polyfunctional and broad CD4 and CD8 T-cell responses. All participants experienced detectable viral rebound during ATI, and resumed ART when plasma HIV-1 viral load reached either >100,000 copies ml-1, >10,000 copies ml-1 for eight consecutive weeks, or after 24 weeks of ATI. In post-hoc analyses, HTI vaccines were associated with a prolonged time off ART in vaccinees without beneficial HLA (human leukocyte antigen) class I alleles. Plasma viral load at the end of ATI and time off ART positively correlated with vaccine-induced HTI-specific T-cell responses at ART cessation. Despite limited efficacy of the vaccines in preventing viral rebound, their ability to elicit robust T-cell responses towards HTI may be beneficial in combination cure strategies, which are currently being tested in clinical trials.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.