Main | Monday, May 11, 2015

GSK & UNC-Chapel Hill Form Company Devoted To Finding Cure For HIV/AIDS

Via the New York Times:
Years ago, curing AIDS was considered so out of the question that some scientists dared not even mention the possibility. But in the latest sign that attitudes are changing, the British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is teaming up with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to start a research institute and a company aimed at curing H.I.V. infection and AIDS. In an agreement set to be announced on Monday, GlaxoSmithKline will contribute $4 million annually over five years to the research center, set up on the North Carolina campus. It will also move a small number of its own scientists to Chapel Hill. The company and the university will each own half of the new company, Qura Therapeutics, which will have the rights to commercialize any discoveries. The effort will be separate from ViiV Healthcare, the company owned by Glaxo, Pfizer and Shionogi that develops and sells drugs that control, but do not cure, H.I.V.
More from Buzzfeed:
The first approved drug for HIV, azidothymidine or AZT, was patented in 1985 by Burroughs Wellcome, which was subsequently acquired by GSK. At UNC-Chapel Hill, molecular biologist David Margolis and his colleagues have made headlines for their strategy to root out HIV from its many hiding spots (known as “latent reservoirs”) in the body — even in patients already treated with antiretroviral therapy. With that line of research, “what was once provocative and unthinkable became mainstream: let’s try and cure AIDS,” Myron Cohen, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill, told BuzzFeed News. That scientific strategy, informally known as “shock and kill,” will be at the center of the GSK-UNC collaboration. The leaders of the new effort recognize that their initial investment is fairly small, on the scale of what it takes to develop a new drug. They hope to be a catalyst for more funding — from the government and, perhaps, from other companies — later on.
And from the Wall Street Journal:
AIDS researchers have known for two decades that HIV goes dormant, hiding in so-called latent reservoirs in immune-system cells where it can’t be affected by antiretroviral drugs. UNC has led one potential strategy for a cure in which a drug is used to flush the virus from its dormant state, making it a target for drug therapy. Dr. David Margolis said that strategy is “extremely promising,” but that the cure center will explore others. “We have to have a broad approach,” he said. UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said the hope is that the partnership will expand, inviting in additional collaborators. “I see this as us really putting our muscle behind a pressing issue,” she said, calling an HIV cure “an extraordinary scientific challenge.” In 2013, about 35 million people world-wide were infected with HIV, and 1.5 million people world-wide died of AIDS-related causes, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
Posted today to GSK's YouTube channel.

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