Vaccine development to induce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) against HIV-1 is a global health priority. Potent VRC01-class bNAbs against the CD4 binding site of HIV gp120 have been isolated from HIV-1-infected individuals; however, such bNAbs have not been induced by vaccination. Wild-type gp120 proteins lack detectable affinity for predicted germline precursors of VRC01-class bNAbs, making them poor immunogens to prime a VRC01-class response. We employed computation-guided, in vitro screening to engineer a germline-targeting gp120 outer domain immunogen that binds to multiple VRC01-class bNAbs and germline precursors, and elucidated germline binding crystallographically. When multimerized on nanoparticles, this immunogen (eOD-GT6) activates germline and mature VRC01-class B cells. Thus, eOD-GT6 nanoparticles have promise as a vaccine prime. In principle, germline-targeting strategies could be applied to other epitopes and pathogens.
Science, Volume 340, Issue 6133, p.711-6 (2013)