HIV cure, not just treatment, is goal of Glaxo-UNC partnership
- Academic and pharmaceutical researchers will work side-by-side at UNC Chapel Hill at an HIV Cure center.
- This public-private partnership has formed a company, Qura Therapeutics, which will deal with intellectual property and business-related issues.
- The initiation of this partnership is part of a larger effort by GSK to regain its previously top-ranked position as a leader in HIV/AIDS research.
Treatment of HIV has progressed significantly to the point that, in many cases, HIV infection can be managed like a chronic condition. However, there has not yet been a definitive cure, which is considered the goal of next-generation R&D in the area of HIV therapeutics. Finding a cure for HIV is the singular focus of the HIV Cure Center, as well as a critical part of GSK's mission to stay the course with HIV R&D.
GSK has not only entered into this partnership, but recently announced its intention to remain part of Viiv Healthcare, its R&D partnership with Pfizer focused on developing HIV therapies. This decision is based partly on recent successes in this area. GSK's revenues for HIV treatments rose 42% in the first quarter of this year, compared with last year. And last summer, GSK was granted FDA approval of Triumeq (abacavir/dolutegravir/lamivudine), a three-in-one, oral, fixed-dose combo therapy, in summer 2014.
One key scientific focus for the researchers involved in this partnership is to address one of the factors that has been a longstanding barrier to a cure: the fact that HIV goes dormant and hides in latent reservoirs in immune-system cells, which cannot be touched by current antiretrovirals. Researchers at UNC have already started work on a strategy that may "flush" the virus from its dormant state.
While it's not clear that this strategy will work, what's is clear is that this is a world-class team of reseachers doing innovative and potentially groundbreaking work.