Austrian Biopharma Reaches First HIV Vaccine Milestone

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Hookipa Pharma has reached its first milestone in a partnership deal with US-based CAR T pioneers Gilead Sciences to develop an HIV vaccine using the Austrian company’s arenavirus-based technology.

Hookipa’s lead candidate is a prophylactic vaccine for cytomegalovirus, a common infection that can be dangerous in people with weak immune systems, such as those with HIV. The vaccine is currently being tested in a Phase II trial.

Based on the success of its cytomegalovirus vaccine Phase I trial, Gilead decided to partner with Hookipa last summer to develop new therapies against HIV and hepatitis B. Gilead paid $10M (€8.8M) upfront to Hookipa and the Austrian company is eligible for up to $400M (€352M) in specified milestone payments.  

“Hookipa’s unique therapeutic vaccine technology, which has demonstrated excellent safety and immunogenicity in Phase I clinical studies, has strong potential to have synergistic effect with other Gilead cure efforts in both of these diseases areas,” explained Bill Lee, Executive Vice President of Research at Gilead, at the time of the deal.

The first milestone involved creating 14 viral vectors for Gilead to use in further HIV research, as well as providing accompanying data, and Hookipa is now eligible for its first additional payment from the US company.

Hookipa has developed two engineered viral vectors that can stimulate the patient’s immune system to produce targeted immune cells — CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and pathogen-specific antibodies — to attack infections or cancer cells.

While its cytomegalovirus vaccine is its most advanced candidate at present, Hookipa is also carrying out preclinical testing of its technology for treating prostate and human papillomavirus positive head and neck cancers.

Images via Shutterstock

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