Scientists Spot New Antibodies Against HIV, Opening Up Potential Path to AIDS Vaccine
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looking at more samples gathered by IAVI. This latest work being published in Nature, with the 17 new antibodies, is based on the contributions from four more HIV-resistant people from Africa, Swiderek says. The scientific collaborators are working on making antibodies against samples from one more donor, which isn’t yet reflected in today’s paper in Nature, she says.
The business opportunity in HIV is always one for ethical debate—how treatments should be priced, and how best to provide access. Merck has tried and failed to develop an AIDS vaccine, and there have been many efforts in government labs, with money from nonprofits like IAVI, to continue the vaccine hunt.
Companies like Foster City, CA-based Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and others have long proven there’s a big business in the treatment of HIV in wealthy countries where people can afford to take antiretroviral medications on a chronic basis. More than 30 such HIV drugs have been approved for sale by the FDA, and although it’s been tried, none have been shown to work like a preventive vaccine. The market for AIDS drugs, not counting any vaccine, is estimated to reach $13.7 billion by 2016, according to the market research firm GlobalData.
Under this particular collaborative agreement, IAVI owns the rights to all the antibodies for the development of an AIDS vaccine, while Theraclone retains the commercial rights to the broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies for therapeutic purposes, according to Russ Hawkinson, Theraclone’s vice president of finance. If Theraclone decided to pursue that route, it would have to make the bet that certain AIDS patients would be better candidates for an injectable therapy that could conceivably be taken, say, once a month. That would be in contrast to today’s standard antiretroviral drugs, which are mostly taken as once-daily pills. No one has come up with such an antibody-based therapy for HIV for commercial use, but Theraclone said it has been having ongoing talks with potential pharmaceutical partners.
The latest HIV work may never lead to a viable product candidate, but it’s the kind of thing that could help boost the reputation of its technology, and its potential for making other kinds of antibodies. Theraclone has a partnership with Japan-based Zenyaku Kogyo to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies for flu, and an alliance with New York-based Pfizer to make antibodies against various infectious diseases and cancer. Theraclone plans to start a clinical trial of its lead antibody for flu by the end of this year, and to begin another trial of an antibody for cytomegalovirus infections in the first half of 2012, Hawkinson says.