In the new research project, researchers from Aarhus will try to remove HIV virus from the body (animation: Tonny Foghmar, Aarhus University Hospital).
Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University in Denmark have received a major grant to conduct a research project on HIV, investigating and testing new medicine which may remove HIV virus from the body.
Owing to developments in modern medicine, HIV is today treatable using Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). ART works by stopping HIV from copying itself and thus spreading. Despite the effectiveness of ART, it is unable to remove the remaining virus from the body.
Across the world researchers are trying to find the key to eradicate HIV virus from the body. Researchers at Department of Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University have received a grant of DKK 19.7 million from the global division of the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences to investigate this particular issue.
Patients from three countries
The grant will be spent on a large clinical study running for the next three years with patients form Denmark, USA and Australia, who will be testing two novel drugs.
One of these novel investigational drugs called lefitolimod (Mologen AG) increases the ability of the immune system to attack infected and diseased cells, including cells hiding HIV (this type of medicine is also being developed to treat certain types of cancer).
The other investigational drug consists of so-called monoclonal antibodies against HIV. These antibodies are molecules that target and bind to the surface of the virus. This helps the immune system to identify HIV-infected cells and to start killing them. The two investigational drugs have previously been tested individually in smaller studies, but no studies have so far tested them in combination. The hope is that they together can attack and kill a large part of the HIV reservoir, which is not possible using standard HIV treatment regimens.
A step towards a cure
Dr. Ole Schmeltz Søgaard from Aarhus University Hospital, principal investigator of the study, expresses his expectations to the project:
- This grant gives us a unique opportunity to test some of the most promising investigational drugs available. The study collaboration of Danish, US and Australian researchers brings an expansive expertise in the field of HIV and immunology, says Ole Schmeltz Søgaard.
- My hope is that we will see a significant reduction in the HIV reservoir in the body of the patients receiving the investigational drugs. Decreasing the size of the HIV reservoir is likely to be crucial for the development of an HIV cure.
- Our overall goal is, through sequential research projects, to step by step improve the ability to remove and ultimately eradicate HIV virus completely from the body. This project is an important step in that direction.
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus attacking the immune system in the infected person. HIV cannot replicate without help from the host and thus HIV inserts its own genetic material in some of the cells in the body. HIV infects a particular type of cells, CD4 cells; these cells are an important part of our immune system.
- In Denmark, approximately 6,000 people live with HIV infection. The number of new cases per year has been stable for the last decade.
- Globally, almost 37 million people live with HIV. In 2015, 2 million children and adults were infected and 1.1 million died of AIDS.
Source: AIDS Foundation, Denmark
Ole Schmeltz Søgaard, MD, PhD, Associate professor Department of Infectious Diseases, Aarhus University Hospital and Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, Denmark
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