HIV vaccine trial halted after phase 3 failure

An HIV vaccine candidate failed to prove efficacy in a phase 3 trial, and it's now abandoned, according to Janssen, Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical arm. 

There are no approved HIV vaccines in the U.S. In 2020, 30,635 Americans received an HIV diagnosis. About 18,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with HIV died in 2020, but those deaths could be because of any cause, according to the HHS' National HIV/AIDS Strategy site

The investigational vaccine was administered four times during one year among nearly 4,000 participants in the global study, according to J&J. The study participants were cisgender men and transgender people who have sex with other cisgender men or transgender people. 

Compared to a placebo, the vaccine did not prove efficacy, and further research for it was discontinued. No safety issues were noted, J&J said. 

"We are disappointed with this outcome and stand in solidarity with the people and communities vulnerable to and affected by HIV," Penny Heaton, MD, leader of Janssen's global therapeutic vaccine department, said in a Jan. 18 news release. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing innovation in HIV, and we hope the data from [the candidate's trial] will provide insights for future efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine."

In the U.S., more than 1 million people have HIV, and in 2021, the global figure was 38.4 million, according to NHAS. 

Anthony Fauci, MD, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News the late-stage trial failure is "obviously disappointing" but said there are other potential HIV vaccines that are chugging along. 

"I don't think that people should give up on the field of the HIV vaccine," Dr. Fauci told NBC News.

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