Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 35297660
Link to DOI – 10.1128/jvi.02161-21
J Virol 2022 04; 96(7): e0216121
Vaccine-induced protective T cell immunity is necessary for HIV-1 functional cure. We previously reported that rhesus PD1-Gag-based DNA vaccination sustained simian-human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV) suppression by inducing effector-memory CD8+ T cells. Here, we investigated a human PD1-Gag-based DNA vaccine, namely, ICVAX, for clinical translation. PD1-based dendritic cell targeting and mosaic antigenic designs were combined to generate the ICVAX by fusing the human soluble PD1 domain with a bivalent HIV-1 Gag-p41 mosaic antigen. The mosaic antigen was cross-reactive with patients infected with B, CRF07/08_BC, and CRF01_AE variants. In mice, ICVAX elicited stronger, broader, and more polyfunctional T cell responses than mosaic Gag-p41 alone, and suppressed EcoHIV infection more efficiently. In macaques, ICVAX elicited polyfunctional effector-memory T cell responses that targeted multiple nonoverlapping epitopes of the Gag-p41 antigen. Furthermore, ICVAX manufactured following good manufacturing practices proved potent immunogenicity in macaques after biannual homologous vaccination, warranting clinical evaluation of ICVAX as an immunotherapy against HIV-1. IMPORTANCE This study presents that ICVAX, a PD1-based DNA vaccine against HIV-1, could induce broad and polyfunctional T cell responses against different HIV-1 subtypes. ICVAX encodes a recombinant antigen consisting of the human soluble PD1 domain fused with two mosaic Gag-p41 antigens. The mosaic antigens cover more than 500 HIV-1 strains circulating in China including the subtypes B/B’, CRF01_AE, and CRF07/08_BC. In mice, ICVAX elicited stronger, broader, and more polyfunctional T cell responses, with better EcoHIV suppression than the nontargeting mosaic Gag-p41 DNA vaccine. Moreover, both lab-generated and GMP-grade ICVAX also elicited strong polyfunctional effector-memory T cell responses in rhesus macaques with good immunogenicity against multiple nonoverlapping epitopes of the Gag-p41 antigen. This study therefore highlights the great potential to translate the PD1-based DNA vaccine approach into clinical use, and opens up new avenues for alternative HIV-1 vaccine design for HIV-1 preventive and functional cure.