Some of you might remember the waves made earlier this year about ‘The Immunity Project’. They were crowdsourcing an HIV vaccine that was magical and amazing and they were totally going to give it away for free!!


… Except ‘The Immunity Project’ basically had nothing to back their claims up.

No publications, the investigators had no connection to HIV vaccine research, and the marketing claims made by ‘The Immunity Project’ were outlandish (more from Skeptical Raptor).

We were assured that a publication was in the works, and to their credit, that publication is now available in a peer-reviewed journal.

Eliciting cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses from synthetic vectors containing one or two epitopes in a C57BL/6 mouse model using peptide-containing biodegradable microspheres and adjuvants

This publication is the basic, extremely preliminary experiments one would expect from a lab developing a new vaccination strategy.

This publication makes it 100% clear, however, that they are nowhere near any kind of vaccine, including an HIV vaccine. It, in no way, backs up the marketing claims made by ‘The Immunity Project’.

They showed that their strategy can induce interferon gamma secreting CTLs in mice to OVA or VSV (standard viral ‘test’ protein) peptides, and their approach is better at inducing those responses than ‘free’ OVA or VSV peptides.

And thats it.

No comparison to viral vectors (the current popular means of inducing CTL responses). I mean viral-OVA is the control everyone else is using (adenovirus, retroviral, pick your poison). Its not like these vectors dont already exist. And *they* will be the standard by which this new approach will be judged, not ‘free peptide’.

No test to see whether the induced CTLs actually initiate cell death in target cells. Actually killing target cells. Not just secreting interferon gamma. KILLING.

No test to see if CTLs protect against infection/delay death in mice. Or non-human primates. Against anything.

And no HIV peptides. No demonstration whatsoever that HIV peptides play by the same rules. In my own experience, cells will present lots of ‘HIV peptides’ when you give it to them… but theyre not *actually* on the surface of infected cells. Giving an MHC Class I free peptide is *not* the same as making the cell produce, process, and present peptide.

The only take-away from this paper is that their approach to peptide-based vaccines produces more CTLs that will produce interferon gamma in the presence of cells pulsed with said peptide, when using standard control peptides.

This paper has nothing to do with an HIV vaccine.

If this is the preliminary data they showed an HIV vaccine grant committee and they expected millions of dollars research cash and trials in humans… they are delusional.



  1. #1 JustaTech
    July 22, 2014

    Dude, my lab made more progress than that on HIV vaccines and we didn’t get our grant renewed. (Not bitter.) Like, that was my first job; get an HIV epitope-specific immune response out of a B6. It’s not hard (though we used recombinate DNA and lots of viral vectors).

    Science: it’s not a software startup.

  2. #2 SkepticalRaptor
    July 22, 2014


    I’m pretty sure you made more progress than that in a week. And they have all this crowdsourcing.

    I don’t want to say these guys are running a scam. But you know the old saying about the duck.

  3. […] Abbie’s blog posts about the immunity project and their recent paper. […]