Trimeris Inc. believes its T-20 is the first inhibitor of HIV capsid fusion to T cell membranes, a new class of HIV therapy that it hopes will be as successful as protease inhibitors. But the fusion inhibitor, which could strengthen combination regimens with a positive safety and resistance profile, also comes with a stumbling block. As a large protein, T-20 is difficult and expensive to manufacture. To address the issue, TRMS has developed a method of protein synthesis that makes use of the efficiencies inherent in small molecule production.

TRMS (Durham, N.C.) last week partnered T-20 with Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (see B4). The 36-amino acid peptide is a portion of the gp41 HIV envelope protein. It interferes with the virus' structure that mediates fusion to T cell membranes, preventing HIV from injecting its RNA into the cells (see BioCentury, Feb. 1).