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3:05 PM
 | 
Feb 02, 2017
 |  BC Innovations  |  Strategy

Cure cash

Gilead uses grant program to place bets on best ways to clear HIV

With the goal now to clear rather than just suppress HIV, Gilead Sciences Inc. is using a $22 million grant program to back the scientific strategies it thinks are most likely to empty the HIV reservoir or produce better methods to measure it. High on its list is a toll-like receptor (TLR)-based “shock and kill” approach that could provide an alternative to Gilead’s own TLR7 agonist, GS-9620.

The program, whose 12 recipients were announced last month, will provide three years of no-strings-attached funding for academics, not-for-profits and community groups working on translational research and patient engagement related to HIV.

Although antiretroviral (ART) drugs and drug cocktails, of which Gilead markets over a dozen, have allowed patients to live generally healthy lives by keeping viral replication at bay, they fail to clear latent virus hiding in quiescent cells. That reservoir has become the next frontline in finding a cure, but the challenge has been to find a way to reach every infected cell.

The dominant approach emerging in NIH and academic studies is to harness or boost the immune system to clear the virus, rather than create more agents that target the virus directly.

Gilead’s awardees include five projects based on this idea, with targets that straddle the adaptive and innate arms of the immune system, including TLR agonists, virus-targeting antibodies, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and cytokines (see “Recipient Roster”).

Table: Recipient roster

Project type(s)Primary recipient institute(s) or organizationPrincipal investigatorProject title
Therapeutics to clear HIV reservoirsMassachusetts General HospitalGalit AlterDevelopment of a novel class of broadly functional antibodies (bFAbs) that can kill the viral reservoir within lymphoid sanctuaries
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterLawrence CoreyAdoptive transfer of genetically protected and genetically modified defined populations of CAR T cells as a modality to achieve HIV-1 cure
Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH); National Cancer Institute (NCI)George PavlakisEfficacy of heterodimeric IL-15 treatment regimens in reducing SIV reservoir
Aarhus University HospitalOle Schmeltz SogaardCombining...

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