The HIV Cure Center and Qura Therapeutics, launched in 2015, is a collaborative effort with ViiV and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The two entities have announced they will be extending the effort by 5 years, with $20m (EUROS) in funding, to continue pursuit for an HIV cure.
ViiV Heathcare is a specialist HIV company majority-owned by GSK, with Pfizer and Shionogi Ltd as shareholders. UNC-Chapel Hill is a public research university with a broad range of HIV clinical research experience.
David Margolis, director of the UNC HIV Cure Center, told Outsourcing-Pharma the team has made steady progress in their pursuit of HIV answers and therapies.
“We’ve been gradually moving forward in the effort to understand how HIV persists, despite therapy,” he said.
One of the advances Margolis explained was the successful pursuit of an “induce and reduce” strategy in animal models. The concept (outlined in the science journal, Nature) involves pinpointing HIV that ‘hides’ in cells while the virus is supressed through antiretrovial means.
After it is identified, the virus basically can be driven out of hiding, so it can then be eliminated. The goal of this approach is designed to target the virus while minimizing the overall impact on the body.
“We were lucky to be able to make these advances in such a relatively short time,” Margolis told us. “Part of that reason was increasing the understanding and utility of the tools we use to do the work. A big part was the collaboration between UNC and ViiV, bringing together the skills of industry and academia, resources of the medical center, and of the people with HIV that participate and allow us to gain those insights.”
Deborah Waterhouse, CEO of ViiV Healthcare, said the partnership and all the people contributing to the work are making a real difference.
“Five years ago, when we announced this innovative collaboration, we were inspired by the possibility that with the right resources and research teams, we would be able to make a meaningful impact towards a cure for HIV,” she said.
The terms of the agreement stipulate scientists from ViiV and UNC-Chapel Hill will continue working alongside each other at the HIV Cure Center, located on the university campus. They also will continue joint ownership of Qura Therapeutics, the company founded to help manage the partnership’s intellectual property, commercialization, manufacturing and governance requirements.
UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the partnership’s focus on advancing an HIV cure is “one of the most pressing challenges of our times."