MHRP looks back at another year of scientific progress and the close of our 35th anniversary:
HIV Vaccines & Prevention
- In 2021, MHRP and partners launched a new Phase 1 clinical trial in Kenya to evaluate whether Army Liposomal Formulation adjuvant ALFA boosts the immune response to experimental HIV vaccines.
- Researchers also advanced the development of another ALF adjuvant, ALFQ, which was used in clinical studies in 2021 at WRAIR with vaccines for malaria and SARS-COV-2.
- In Thailand, MHRP launched a nonhuman primate study to evaluate a novel mRNA HIV vaccine candidate.
- In addition to vaccines, MHRP is also researching monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for HIV prevention. Researchers identified novel mAbs MHRP01 and MHRP02 and demonstrated them to be broad and potent against a diverse panel of HIV strains.
- In other prevention research, MHRP began evaluating the KISS behavioral intervention to reduce the risk of HIV and other STIs in a population of U.S. Army personnel and other Military Health System beneficiaries.
Progress Towards a Cure
- This year, MHRP’s unique RV254 acute infection cohort study continued in Thailand, helping shed light on the earliest events in HIV infection. The RV254 cohort is the result of real-time screening of more than 400,000 individuals, with more than 800 cases of diagnosed acute HIV infection (AHI).
- Researchers continue to learn from another MHRP acute infection cohort, RV217. One finding in 2021 was that early engagement of immune system B cells with the HIV envelope during AHI predicts development of better neutralizing antibodies.
- Another team of MHRP researchers analyzed HIV gene sequences from RV217 to estimate the timing of HIV infection, a method to help inform the design of preventive HIV clinical studies.
- The ongoing RV254 study serves as a foundation for MHRP’s cure research. In the spring, MHRP launched a clinical trial to test an IL-15 superagonist administered during acute HIV infection as an experimental therapy to target establishment of the HIV reservoir.
- MHRP is part of two multi-institution research teams that were awarded funds in 2021 from NIH to develop an integrated approach to finding an HIV cure.
Global HIV and Infectious Disease Research
- In 2021, MHRP scientists published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers. Many of the published findings contribute to our understanding of the global HIV epidemic.
- In 2021, MHRP completed clinical activities for HIV epidemiology studies at two of its newest international partner sites.
- RV505 was the first ever observational HIV study conducted in Jordan, collecting regional data on demographics, HIV genotypes and drug resistance.
- The BRAHMS study was the largest systematic epidemiological study in Germany for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Findings showed a high burden of STIs, meaning participating sites are a potential resource for trials to test novel prevention and treatment methods.
- MHRP partner sites around the world have been leveraged to study other infectious diseases, like Ebola and, most recently, SARS-CoV-2. MHRP researchers continued to help advance WRAIR countermeasures to combat COVID, including a vaccine, adjuvants and monoclonal antibodies.
- This year, partners in Thailand pivoted to support a multinational vaccine study called MAGI to assess the efficacy of a vaccine to prevent gonococcal infection.
HIV Prevention, Care and Treatment
- MHRP implements comprehensive HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This year, MHRP helped:
- test and counsel more than 1 million clients
- maintain nearly 370,000 people in care
- maintain viral suppression in over 96% of clients on treatment
- introduce measures to combat COVID-19 and preserve HIV service delivery
- The Nigeria DoD WRAIR team spearheaded community-led monitoring, empowering clients and community organizations to refine PEPFAR-supported services.
- In 2021, MHRP helped support the Armed Forces Research Institute for Medical Sciences and the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program with an expansion to support a military-military partnership in the Philippines. The first activities under this expansion focus on lab strengthening, clinical training, and diagnostic capabilities to bolster capacity for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and surveillance.
- PEPFAR also supports MHRP’s African Cohort Study (AFRICOS), a large, multi-site study that evaluates the implementation of PEPFAR-supported programs and related outcomes. This year, AFRICOS findings spanned an array of complex, interconnected areas, including stigma, ART adherence, STI and tuberculosis co-infection, food insecurity and depression.