HIV Vaccines and Treatments
Did you know in 2011:
- 34 million people in the world were living with HIV.
- 1.1 million people in the U.S. were infected with HIV; 18% of them were unaware that they carried the virus.
- Young people, ages 15-24, accounted for approvimately 40% of new HIV infections.
- 1.7 million people died of AIDS.*
*The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Fred Hutch researchers have spent more than two decades unraveling how HIV/AIDS works and conducting groundbreaking research to end its deadly march.
A cornerstone of these efforts is the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), an international collaboration dedicated to stopping HIV's spread in the U.S. and around the world.
Based at Fred Hutch, the network is the world’s largest clinical trials program, testing and evaluating experimental vaccines designed to spur the immune system to prevent HIV. HVTN units are located at leading research institutions in 27 cities on four continents.
Pursuing a stem cell cure
Fred Hutch researchers are doing more than trying to prevent HIV. They're trying to cure it. In 2011, a team led by Drs. Keith Jerome and Hans-Peter Kiem received a $20 million grant to investigate whether stem cell transplants can accomplish this lifesaving goal.
Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, "Berlin patient" Timothy Ray Brown and Dr. Keith Jerome
This research builds on the remarkable success of Timothy Ray Brown – also known as the “Berlin patient” – who is the first person ever cured of HIV. Brown was diagnosed with the virus in 1995 and used antiretroviral therapy to control it. Then, in 2007 and 2008, he received stem cell transplants to combat acute myeloid leukemia. The cells came from a donor who carried a rare gene mutation that made them naturally immune to HIV.
These transplants eradicated Brown's cancer and transferred the genetic variation to his immune system, curing him of both diseases. The Fred Hutch-led team, called defeatHIV, uses this breakthrough as a possible blueprint for new curative therapies that could reach patients worldwide.
HIV and The Berlin Patient (video)
The treatment approach used on Brown can’t be applied on a large scale to people infected with HIV because bone marrow transplants can be risky and are still mainly used as a last resort in cancer patients. Also, very few people are naturally immune to HIV, making donor cells hard to come by. The research team must instead find ways to modify a patient’s own immune cells. The goal is to take blood cells from a patient with HIV, insert genetic instructions into those cells that allow them to resist the virus, and then put the cells back into the patient. DefeatHIV also aims to develop innovative enzymes that can seek out and eliminate HIV from reservoirs where it hides inside the body and plagues infected individuals.
DefeatHIV's team of world-leading investigators includes scientists from Fred Hutch, the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, City of Hope, Sangamo BioSciences and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.