- Norwegian biotech Bionor Pharma has developed an immune-boosting treatment, Vacc-4x, to be used as part of HIV treatment in conjunction with Celgene's romidepsin, which awakens dormant HIV-infected cells.
- In a clinical study involving 17 HIV-infected patients, Bionor's therapy reduced the size of the latent HIV reservoir by an average of 40%.
- Bionor Pharma is working on the next-generation of HIV treatment, attempting to solve how to eradicate latent HIV even when undetectable in a patient. The 'kick and kill' strategy involves siphoning out the virus and then using immunotherapy to eradicate the virus.
When HIV researchers developed drugs making HIV a controllable, chronic disease, it marked a new era in treatment in which death was not a foregone conclusion. Patients could expect to live long lives taking medications to keep the virus at bay.
Now, HIV treatment may be close to making another jump forward. When Biopharma Dive spoke with Kevin Frost, CEO of amfAR (the Foundation for AIDS Research), he highlighted the next stages of research needed to find a cure. According to Frost, the primary barrier to a cure is the existence of latent viral reservoirs, where HIV can hide even if a patient has undetectable levels of virus in their blood.
There are four key challenges to eliminating latent viral reservoirs. Scientists must pinpoint the precise locations of thereservoirs; determine how they are formed and persist; quantify the amount of virus in them; and finally, eradicate the reservoirs from the body.
Bionor's 'kick and kill' approach is a step towards overcoming those four challenges, but there's still a great deal of work to be done.