A staggering 36.7 million individuals are living with HIV worldwide, and once an individual is infected, they have it for life. Having safe, effective treatment available is what allows these individuals to live as long, and for the most part, as healthy, as their non-infected counterparts.
One such treatment option, humanized monoclonal antibody PRO 140, “belongs to a new class of HIV/AIDS therapeutics,” according to biotechnology company CytoDyn, who acquired the antibody in July 2012, from original developer Progenics Pharmaceuticals.
CytoDyn paid an initial $3.5 million — with supplemental clinical milestone payments — for the investigational treatment. It was a price that Nader Pourhassan, PhD, CytoDyn president and chief executive officer, was footing for a larger idea. Dr. Pourhassan recently recalled a conversation with colleague Robert T. Schooley, MD, division head and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Disease’s Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.
While discussing future HIV drugs, Dr. Pourhassan said that Dr. Schooley told him if he wanted to make the next drug “a game changer, it has to be monoclonal.”
Why might monoclonal antibodies
be a gamechanger? Researchers believe that they "hold promise as long-acting therapies for people with limited treatment options due to drug resistance."
The efficacy results from 1 of 2 PRO 140 clinical trials should be announced in the next month, according to CytoDyn. What Dr. Pourhassan projects is a once-weekly subcutaneous self-injection antibody that protects healthy cells from HIV infection by binding to the C-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CCR5).
CCR5 is a white blood cell surface protein used by the virus to infect host cells. Paul J. Maddon, MD, PhD, the inventor of PRO 140, was credited by Dr. Pourhassan as one of the forefront researchers in CCR5’s role in HIV treatment for the past decade.
In previous trials, PRO 140 has been shown to reduce HIV viral load in the body, while maintaining a long-term reduction, according to CytoDyn. Patients observed in such trials have been on the treatment for over 2 years during the study’s extension, and have reported minimal adverse effects and toxicities—and no viral resistance.