Teaming up with NIH, ViiV buys into the next big thing in HIV: antibodies
Weeks after taking over from John Pottage, Kim Smith — ViiV Healthcare’s newly minted head of R&D — has found a new HIV treatment approach to champion and do some heavy lifting around.
The GSK subsidiary has licensed a “broadly neutralizing antibody” from the NIH that promises to recognize and block the entry of multiple HIV strains into healthy CD4+ T cells. By binding to a specific site known as gp120 on the surface of the virus, N6LS is engineered to keep them out and annul any chance of replication inside cells — which can work as either prophylaxis or therapy.
Based on “initial evidence that bNAbs can target dormant copies of HIV that may be hiding in human cells and avoiding anti-retroviral treatment,” a spokesperson added, “this research could have implications for efforts to cure HIV.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been working on adding this specific type of antibodies to its arsenal of HIV therapies alongside other next-gen approaches such as implants and even a vaccine. Here’s why they are important, according to NIAID director Anthony Fauci:
Antiretroviral therapy suppresses HIV to very low levels, normalizes life expectancy, and prevents sexual transmission of the virus. However, these benefits are lost if an individual stops taking the medications as prescribed. If proven safe and effective, periodic infusions of potent, broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies may be a potential alternative to daily antiretroviral therapy.
But antibodies are still not immune to concerns about resistance, which looms large in antiretroviral therapies. As ViiV progresses in the clinic with N6LS, they plan to combine it with another long-acting molecule to form a 2-drug regimen — pitching less frequent dosing than existing options.
The NIAID Vaccine Research Center will now be providing the material — a product of a research and development pact between GSK and the NIH — for ViiV to conduct a Phase IIa study. The deal also comes with milestones and royalties.
“We are excited to advance N6LS from its current proof of concept stage to the next step in its development by studying this bNAb as a long-acting medicine that could potentially be used for both treatment and prevention of HIV,” Smith said in a statement.