Spearheading The Fight Against HIV
Beyond Boundaries: Biotech’s Spearheading the Fight Against HIV
Path to an HIV-Free World
May 18th is celebrated as HIV Vaccine Awareness Day and is intended to highlight the need for a vaccine against HIV. Despite significant progress in treating the disease, a preventative vaccine remains elusive. Today, it’s estimated that around 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
While the development of curative & preventative therapies still remains a challenge, we want to highlight a few of the biotechs working to change that. These companies are using innovative approaches that target different aspects of the virus, and their efforts are promising steps toward finding a cure for HIV.
Emmune (FL, US)
Based in Juno Beach, Florida, Emmune is looking to reach clinical trials for the first time through its HIV Vaccine. Their antibody-like molecule (eCD4-lg) is built to overcome two challenges posed by HIV infection: The inability of patients to generate an effective antibody response on an individual level and the immense viral diversity that’s been generated since the beginning of the HIV pandemic.
Emmune is taking an unconventional approach to its HIV vaccine. To overcome the aforementioned hurdles, they have engineered a synthetic antibody based on the receptors (CD4 & CCR5) that HIV used to infect T cells. Having received a few SBIR grants already in 2023, they’re poised to accelerate preclinical studies for the remainder of the year. The bulk of the upcoming research will be testing their AAV vector which contains DNA encoding eCD4-lg. Thus far, this delivery method has provided long-term protection against the virus in animal models.
MarPam Pharma (MN, US)
MarPam Pharma is an emerging biotech yet to reach clinical trials, with a firm commitment to combat infectious disease. Their work in the HIV vaccine space has garnered the attention of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, earning them a Phase 1 STTR grant worth $306,500. Their current goal is to develop a one-time treatment to trigger the durable remission of HIV, negating the need for antiretroviral therapy.
Going forward, MarPam will continue to develop its novel treatment strategy of using immune cells to specifically target and destroy hidden HIV reservoirs within lymphoid tissues. Additionally, they’ll investigate the possibility of creating a B-cell follicle-targeting natural killer (NK) to avoid having to rely on the condition of a patient’s T-cells, an important step in creating a genuinely universal treatment.
Vir Biotechnology (CA, US)
Based in the red-hot biotech hub of San Francisco, Vir Biotechnology is dedicated to the fight against infectious diseases. The innovation they bring to the table has helped them rack up $400M in funding since the start of 2021 and they’ve also collaborated with the likes of GSK & Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
On May 2nd, they continued that trend when they announced that they had received a $10M grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support their novel T-cell vaccine development program. Through collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), the funds will be used to launch the Phase 1 trial for VIR-1388 in the second half of 2023.
The investigational novel T-cell vaccine is a preventative therapy against HIV. Created through one of their 4 platform technologies, the vaccine is designed to elicit T cells that recognize HIV epitopes. In addition to their T cell platform, they also have proprietary antibody, siRNA, and Innate Immunity platforms.
While significant progress has been made in treating and living with HIV, a preventative vaccine is the missing piece of the puzzle. The emergence of new technologies combined with scientific creativity is opening new doors toward a breakthrough.
As we commemorate HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, let us celebrate the remarkable work of these biotechs and their unwavering commitment to finding a cure. These endeavors not only contribute to HIV prevention but also enhance our understanding of immunology and pave the way for future developments in the field of infectious disease research.
Authored by: Alec de la Durantaye, Product Marketing Manager, Zymewire
May 18, 2023 | Health & Science Days