Current approaches to HIV vaccine development: a narrative review

Jiae Kim, Sandhya Vasan, Jerome H. Kim, Julie A. Ake*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Introduction: The development of an effective vaccine to protect against HIV is a longstanding global health need complicated by challenges inherent to HIV biology and to the execution of vaccine efficacy testing in the context of evolving biomedical prevention interventions. This review describes lessons learnt from previous efficacy trials, highlights unanswered questions, and surveys new approaches in vaccine development addressing these gaps. Methods: We conducted a targeted peer-reviewed literature search of articles and conference abstracts from 1989 through 2021 for HIV vaccine studies and clinical trials. The US National Library of Medicine's Clinical Trials database was accessed to further identify clinical trials involving HIV vaccines. The content of the review was also informed by the authors’ own experience and engagement with collaborators in HIV vaccine research. Discussion: The HIV vaccine field has successfully developed multiple vaccine platforms through advanced clinical studies; however, the modest efficacy signal of the RV144 Thai trial remains the only demonstration of HIV vaccine protection in humans. Current vaccine strategies include prime-boost strategies to improve elicitation of immune correlates derived from RV144, combination mosaic antigens, novel viral vectors, antigens designed to elicit broadly neutralizing antibody, new nucleic acid platforms and potent adjuvants to enhance immunogenicity across multiple classes of emerging vaccine candidates. Conclusions: HIV vaccine developers have applied lessons learnt from previous successes and failures to innovative vaccine design approaches. These strategies have yielded novel mosaic antigen constructs now in efficacy testing, produced a diverse pipeline of early-stage immunogens and novel adjuvants, and advanced the field towards a globally effective HIV vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere25793
JournalJournal of the International AIDS Society
Issue numberS7
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjuvant
  • HIV
  • vaccines


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