Academia, Pre-clinical

A functional HIV cure? We have a long way to go, but Hong Kong investigators find a spotlight for their preclinical antibody

A group of HIV investigators in Hong Kong is getting star treatment today. 

Chen Zhiwei

Reuters is highlighting the preclinical research of Professor Chen Zhiwei at Hong Kong University’s AIDS Institute, who unveiled a mouse study last April alongside claims that his team had found a bi-specific antibody that could work as a “functional cure.”

Let’s set aside for a moment the idea that you can start claiming you’ve found a cure for anything when it’s only worked so far in mouse models. The professor and his colleagues say that their bispecific antibody evidently works against all subtypes of HIV-1, making it universally applicable. In addition, he says they have animal data to support that the antibody they’ve developed also goes after the reservoir of latent virus that the current generation of antiretrovirals can’t reach.

Rooting out the latent virus has become the Holy Grail of researchers in the field, who want to see a full cure for a disease that continues to afflict millions of people.

The investigators dubbed their antibody BiIA-SG, which is designed to protect CD4 positive cells and prevent the penetration of the virus. It’s also equipped for pro-longed drug availability in vivo, with animal model data to underscore that it can guard against HIV for a long stretch.

As a result, reports Reuters, the team believes that they may be able to limit treatments to a quarterly basis, instead of the daily regimens that are now in use around the world. The results were published last April in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Next step: Human trials. But the professor says that could take 3 to 5 years to get started.

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