GlaxoSmithKline the British pharmaceutical giant, which made the decision last week to keep instead of float off its business of HIV drugs, will collaborate with scientists in the U.S. in developing an AIDS cure.
Until just recently, many researchers had been reluctant to discuss a possibility of curing the disease that HIV causes, which infects as many as 35 million people around the world, since its obstacles seemed to be insurmountable.
However, after battling for 30 years to keep HIV at bay with antiretroviral drugs taken over a lifetime, there is increased optimism for a possible cure.
The Timothy Brown case who’s HIV was eliminated in 2007 by a treatment normally used for leukemia marked just the first cure and science since then has advanced.
GSK is creating an HIV Cure center in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and creating a new company that is jointly held.
On Monday, the pharmaceutical giant said it would be investing $20 million to fund the work for the first five years.
Scientists are going to study an number of cure options that includes a shock and kill method that was developed by UNC, which unmasks the dormant hiding HIV in the white blood cells so they can be attacked by the carriers boosted immune system.
It will likely prove to be a difficult and long haul.
In the case with the patient whose HIV was eradicated, the cure for HIV involved a donor’s stem cell transplant with a rare genetic mutation which resists the HIV infection.
The complicated approach is very difficult or nearly impossible to be replicated on a larger scale, so HIV researchers are putting their hopes on more simplified systems that might also have the opportunity to exploit the breakthroughs that have taken place recently in drugs that are boosting the immune system for cancer.
GSK sells medicines for HIV through its ViiV Healthcare unit that is majority owned by the company, which it was considering listing until a change of heart May 6.