New HIV Vaccine Study Fails Again

The road to finding success in science is paved with setbacks and failures, and, unfortunately, that’s the case in the most recent research for a definitive vaccine for HIV.

Per the report, while the research itself is the one that moved furthest in human testing, it has unfortunately failed, and the $104 million trial in South Africa evaluating it has also been stopped very early.

“There’s absolutely no evidence of efficacy. Years of work went into this. It’s a huge disappointment,” Glenda Gray, who heads the study and is president of the South African Medical Research Council (MRC), said  .

Research Failure

Beginning back in October of 2016, the efficacy study is known as HVTN 702, enrolling 5,407 sexually active, HIV-uninfected men and women between 18 and 35 years of age at 14 sites across the country. From there, the researchers then assigned half of the participants randomly to receive a pair of HIV vaccines used in a one-two punch called a prime boost, all while the other half received placebo shots. 

Originally, the trials are supposed to last until July 2022. However, an independent monitoring board that takes scheduled sneak peeks at the data to evaluate safety and efficacy informed Gray and the other leaders of the study that it was “futile” to continue, effectively ending the research and deeming it as a failure. Furthermore, there were reportedly 129 infections in the vaccinated group and 123 in those who received the placebo.

However, just like a different large HIV vaccine study that was abruptly halted in 2007, there was no evidence that the vaccine being tested actually caused harm.

“The trial was incredibly well done and we got a definitive answer, and that’s what science is about,” Susan Buchbinder, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who co-chaired that earlier sobering study, said.

Nonetheless, experts say that this latest failure won’t slow down the vaccine field.

“There are other products in efficacy trials and there’s a slightly larger pipeline in phase I trials than we’ve had in a long time,” Mitchell Warren, who heads AVAC, a nonprofit HIV prevention advocacy group,


HIV Vaccine Three HIV vaccine projects have moved to final stages of testing and experts hope to see results by mid-2020s. Pixabay