HIV vaccine study comes to Rutgers

The team at Rutgers NJMS CRC
Rutgers NJMS CRC, also known as Research with a Heart, has been providing access to HIV therapeutic and prevention research for almost 15 years

The Clinical Research Center in Newark seeks study participants

“While we are making encouraging progress in preventing new HIV infections, the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine would be the ultimate game-changer” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Each year the U.S. has 35,000 new HIV infections. Most of these are in urban and rural communities

Fauci and others are excited that Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Clinical Research Center has been selected as the only site in New Jersey to conduct the new phase 3 HIV Vaccine study. The study is an international effort called MOSAICO. There are 55 clinical research sites in South America, the U.S., and Europe. They are testing a promising vaccine combination to prevent HIV acquisition in men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals who have sex with cisgender men.

“The search for a vaccine began the moment HIV was first identified over 35 years ago, but there have been many challenges along the way due to the unique properties of this virus, including its global genetic diversity,” said Johan Van Hoof, MD.

The Undetectable Equals Untransmitable campaign, sometimes called U=U, along with Treatment as Prevention, and the addition of PrEP and PEP helped prevent new infections. However, there are still some pockets of high rates of HIV infection in some parts of the US.

Each year the United States has 35,000 new HIV infections. Most of these are in urban and rural communities—particularly among men who have sex with men and transgender individuals.

“We must do better because the prevention tool-box needs to be expanded for an AIDS free generation,” says Shobha Swaminathan, MD, Principal Investigator for Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Clinical Research Center.

Rutgers NJMS CRC, also known as Research with a Heart, has been a pioneer in the state, providing access to cutting edge HIV therapeutic and prevention research for almost 15 years as a site funded by the National Institutes of Health. The site has successfully enrolled participants in HIV treatment and HIV prevention studies.

Dr. Swaminathan shares that the MOSAICO trial is providing a unique opportunity for vulnerable populations in Newark and the state of New Jersey.

“We want people to understand we are Research with a Heart,” said Travis Love, Community Educator at Rutgers NJMS CRC. “Although MOSAICO is one research study at our site, we also do treatment trials and we have a research community advisory board that meets monthly. It’s about moving the research forward.”

Recently, the Rutgers NJMS CRC Community Engagement Team was recognized at the 2019 Newark Pride Awards for building relationships outside the clinic’s walls so that the community feels encouraged, safe and able to come back for referrals and information on resources.

“We ensure people are adequately represented in clinical trials. We want to empower the voices of Newark,” continues Love. The team is deeply committed to community engagement and education. It is this harmony of cutting-edge science with effective community engagement that is at the core of the Rutgers NJMS CRC mission.
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Lana Leonard (they/them) is a graduate from The College of New Jersey with a degree in journalism and professional writing. They work at the GLAAD Media institute and freelance for publications like LGBTQ Nation while working on their journalistic theory of change project: Late Nights with Lana, a talk show based out of 10PRL film studios in Long Branch, NJ. Lana's mission, in all their work, is to focus on people, their collective truths and how those truths form a community of knowledge towards change.