ViiV Healthcare Licenses Long-Acting Antibody to Attack Hidden HIV

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The UK company ViiV Healthcare will begin a phase IIa trial of an antibody licensed from the National Institutes of Health in the US that could block HIV transmission for longer than current antiretroviral therapies.

The antibody is currently in an ongoing phase I trial run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, US. ViiV Healthcare’s majority shareholder, the pharma company GSK, licensed the antibody from the US organization, and ViiV Healthcare will launch a phase IIa trial of the antibody in adults with HIV.

The candidate drug is part of a class known as broadly neutralizing antibodies. These antibodies are able to block the entry of multiple types of HIV into immune cells. They can also activate the immune system to fight HIV, so have the potential to provide longer-lasting protection from HIV than current antiretroviral medication. 

Another advantage of the antibodies over current treatments is that they can recognize HIV-infected cells. HIV-infected cells are normally unaffected by medication, and form a viral ‘reservoir’ that re-infects HIV-positive people if they stop taking antiretrovirals. Combined with drugs to tackle these cells, the antibodies could help to eliminate this reservoir.

ViiV Healthcare already has a phase III program developing long-lasting treatments for HIV designed to make treatment more convenient for HIV-positive people than the daily medication they currently require. These treatments consist of injectable antiretroviral drugs that could stop the spread of HIV for up to two months. However, these drugs don’t have the potential to hit the viral reservoir.

While it’s possible to stop the spread of HIV with current medication, many biotech companies are working to reduce the viral HIV reservoir and stop the virus from returning. The French company Abivax is developing a small molecule drug that has shown phase IIa promise for removing hidden HIV-infected cells. The Spanish biotech AELIX Therapeutics teamed up with Gilead in 2018 to develop a combined therapeutic vaccine and small molecule treatment to eliminate the need for daily antiretroviral drugs.

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