BACKGROUND HVTN 098, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, evaluated the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of PENNVAX-GP HIV DNA vaccine, administered with or without plasmid IL-12 (pIL-12), via intradermal (ID) or intramuscular (IM) electroporation (EP) in healthy, HIV-uninfected adults. The study tested whether PENNVAX-GP delivered via ID/EP at one-fifth the dose could elicit equivalent immune responses to delivery via IM/EP and whether inclusion of pIL-12 provided additional benefit.METHODS Participants received DNA encoding HIV-1 env/gag/pol in 3 groups: 1.6 mg ID (ID no IL-12 group, n = 20), 1.6 mg ID + 0.4 mg pIL-12 (ID + IL-12 group, n = 30), 8 mg IM + 1 mg pIL-12 (IM + IL-12 group, n = 30), or placebo (n = 9) via EP at 0, 1, 3, and 6 months. Results of cellular and humoral immunogenicity assessments are reported.RESULTS Following vaccination, the frequency of responders (response rate) to any HIV protein based on CD4+ T cells expressing IFN-γ or IL-2 was 96% for both the ID + IL-12 and IM + IL-12 groups; CD8+ T cell response rates were 64% and 44%, respectively. For ID delivery, the inclusion of pIL-12 increased CD4+ T cell response rate from 56% to 96%. The frequency of responders was similar (≥90%) for IgG binding antibody to gp140 consensus Env across all groups, but the magnitude was higher in the ID + IL-12 group compared with the IM + IL-12 group.CONCLUSION PENNVAX-GP DNA induced robust cellular and humoral immune responses, demonstrating that immunogenicity of DNA vaccines can be enhanced by EP route and inclusion of pIL-12. ID/EP was dose sparing, inducing equivalent, or in some aspects superior, immune responses compared with IM/EP.TRIAL REGISTRATION ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02431767.FUNDING This work was supported by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), U.S. Public Health Service grants, an HIV Vaccine Design and Development Team contract, Integrated Preclinical/Clinical AIDS Vaccine Development Program, and an NIH award.
Stephen C. De Rosa, Srilatha Edupuganti, Yunda Huang, Xue Han, Marnie Elizaga, Edith Swann, Laura Polakowski, Spyros A. Kalams, Michael C. Keefer, Janine Maenza, Yiwen Lu, Megan C. Wise, Jian Yan, Matthew P. Morrow, Amir S. Khan, Jean D. Boyer, Laurent Humeau, Scott White, Michael Pensiero, Niranjan Y. Sardesai, Mark L. Bagarazzi, David B. Weiner, Guido Ferrari, Georgia D. Tomaras, David C. Montefiori, Lawrence Corey, M. Juliana McElrath, HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) 098 Study Team