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Gilead Following Multiple Paths Toward HIV “Functional Cure”


Juicy bits --

First, Louis Picker has started his own company.  Here's the site:

Here's some information from the article:

"What if the reservoir cells could be forced to switch into active mode while patients were still taking their antiretroviral drugs? Would the latently infected cells then die—as most blood cells do when they’re forced to manufacture copies of the HIV virus? If so, the HIV reservoir might be exhausted without harming the patient. Greene and Gilead are both part of scientific consortia that are looking for drugs that can safely “shock” the reservoir cells into a reactivated state.

Gilead found such a drug, romidepsin (Istodax), by screening its own library of compounds, as well as all FDA-approved drugs. Romidepsin is a Celgene drug approved to treat a type of skin cancer, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. But it can also activate cells latently infected with HIV."

... and...

"Gilead already has a line on a drug that might play the “kill” role in a “shock and kill” regimen against the HIV cell reservoir, Geleziunas says. In preclinical research, the company has been studying the effects of an experimental immune modulation drug against viral infections. This agent helps mobilize two types of immune system cells that might destroy reactivated cells that have been harboring the HIV reservoir. The compound is believed to boost the action of a protein, toll-like receptor 7 or TLR7, which activates cytotoxic T-cells called CD8+ cells and NK or “natural killer” cells."

... and...

"Gilead is also supporting studies of a vaccination method developed by Louis Picker at the Oregon Health & Science University. Picker’s technology appears to train the immune system to patrol continuously for certain pathogens in a long-term “seek and destroy” campaign that might some day be useful against the latent HIV reservoir.

In preclinical studies, Picker created a vaccine for SIV, a virus similar to HIV that infects monkeys. He joined SIV to a sort of vaccine vehicle or vector—a virus called cytomegalovirus that commonly infects humans and usually doesn’t cause disease. That vaccine, used as a preventive measure, protected half of a group of uninfected monkeys from SIV when they were exposed to the deadly simian immunodeficiency virus. Those monkeys produced virus, but their immune systems cleared it completely within three years.

“That is without precedent,” Geleziunas says. Picker’s group is trying to figure out why only half the monkeys benefited from the vaccine, and is also creating human cytomegalovirus vaccine vectors to carry the HIV virus for a potential vaccine for people. Picker co-founded a company, Portland, OR-based Tomegavax, to develop the technology.

Gilead is now participating in a collaboration with Picker, the Gates Foundation and other partners to figure out whether the SIV vaccine might be turned into a therapy or cure for monkeys already infected with SIV. In a study that has already begun, infected monkeys are treated with antiretroviral drugs, and then given the SIV-cytomegalovirus vaccine. After as much as a year, researchers will check to see whether the virus population rebounds when antiretroviral drugs are stopped. If the virus doesn’t return, the same method might be tried in clinical trials to see if a similar HIV vaccine could wipe out the HIV cell reservoir in humans."


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