Cent Gardes Conference: HIV Vaccines
Organiser: Fondation Mérieux (France)
Venue: Conference Center les Pensières (Annecy)
Date: 25-27 October 2015
Named after the “One Hundred Guards” of Empress Eugenia (1852-1870), the wife of Napoleon III, the Cent Gardes Conference was initiated in 1986, thanks to the determination of Dr Charles Mérieux. The meeting was one of the very first international meetings focusing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. It was supported by Fondation Mérieux, the Pasteur Institute and Pasteur-Vaccins (which later merged with Institut Mérieux to become ‘Pasteur Mérieux Serums et Vaccins’, the ancestor to Sanofi Pasteur).
The Conference was initially held at Marnes-la-Coquette near Paris, in the historical place where the “100 Guards” were housed some 120 years earlier. It moved to Annecy in 2002. A decade later, it was decided to hold it every other year at Fondation Mérieux Conference Center in Veyrier du Lac, where we hope it will continue unabated for many years to come.
The search for a safe and effective HIV vaccine began in the mid-1980’s. In spite of 30 years of research, however, successive attempts at developing a vaccine have either failed or provided only a modest level of protection. The quest for an HIV vaccine therefore still remains a daunting challenge.
The identification of neutralization motifs shared by most strains of HIV and recognized by broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) has generated the great hope that a protective ‘universal’ HIV vaccine might be eventually developed. However, in spite of much effort and remarkable achievements, the search for the ‘universal’ HIV immunogen that would elicit bnAbs is still ongoing. Hence the great interest in ‘viral immunoprophylaxis’ which uses a viral vector to deliver preformed bnAbs into muscle tissue by gene transfer.
At the same time, however, there has been increasing evidence that non-neutralizing antibodies (n-nAbs) might play an important role in vaccine-induced protection, through mechanisms such as antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and/or inhibition of virus transcytosis through singlelayer epithelia. These mechanisms may lead to a very different vaccine approach and are worth further investigation.
A third pathway recently emerged with the demonstration that eliciting a long-lasting anti-SIV CD8+ T-cell response in macaques through the use of a CMV vector resulted in complete elimination of the challenge virus after experimental viral infection in 50% of the animals. This suggests that SIV infection in non-human primates and, by extrapolation, HIV infection in humans, might be cured by appropriate T cell immune responses. In the past few years, the search for developing a cure for AIDS has become a field of intensive research, but the use of a HIV vaccine as a therapeutic drug still remains at this time a faraway goal.
The 2015 Cent Gardes HIV Vaccine Conference will be devoted to the study of these different approaches to establish an update on where we stand and determine what appears to be the most promising “prospects for the future”.