The EPIICAL project: an emerging global collaboration to investigate immunotherapeutic strategies in HIV-infected children

30 Jun, 2015

Authors: Palma P, Foster C, Rojo P, et al.

Published in: J Virus Erad. 2015;1(3):134-139.

Abstract The EPIICAL (Early-treated Perinatally HIV-infected Individuals: Improving Children’s Actual Life with Novel Immunotherapeutic Strategies) project arises from the firm belief that perinatally infected children treated with suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART) from early infancy represent the optimal population model in which to study novel immunotherapeutic strategies aimed at achieving ART-free remission. This is because HIV-infected infants treated within 2–3 months of life have a much reduced viral reservoir size, and rarely show HIV-specific immunity but preserve normal immune development. The goal of EPIICAL is the establishment of an international collaboration to develop a predictive platform using this model to select promising HIV therapeutic vaccine candidates, leading to prioritisation or deprioritisation of novel immunotherapeutic strategies. To establish this platform, the EPIICAL Consortium aims to: develop predictive models of virological and immunological dynamics associated with response to early ART and to treatment interruption using available data from existing cohorts/studies of early-treated perinatally HIV-infected children; optimise methodologies to better characterise immunological, virological and genomic correlates/profiles associated with viral control; test novel immunotherapeutic strategies using in vivoproof-of-concept (PoC) studies with the aim of inducing virological, immunological and transcriptomic correlates/profiles equivalent to those defined by the predictive model. This approach will strengthen the capacity for discovery, development and initial testing of new therapeutic vaccine strategies through the integrated efforts of leading international scientific groups, with the aim of improving the health of HIV-infected individuals.