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3 Oct 2013

Calls for Cures and Prevention of HIV, but Breakthroughs Still a Long Way Off

Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the treatment of HIV, a significant unmet need remains for the cure and prevention of the disease, although a number of challenges stand in the way of novel non-ART interventions, says the latest report from research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The new report, "PharmaFocus: HIV — R&D Strategies towards Cure and Prevention," states that there is an ongoing need for interventions to control the HIV pandemic, including prophylactic vaccines, novel salvage therapies and an eventual cure for the condition, which will release patients from long-term ART.

Various efforts targeting different aspects of HIV are emerging, such as latency reversal agents and immunotherapies that educate the immune system to eliminate virus-infected cells. GlobalData now believes that the success of a functional cure could well come from an intervention which combines these approaches.

Dr Charalampos Valmas, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Infectious Disease, says: “The need for new combinatorial therapies presents a unique opportunity for small biotech companies and academic laboratories to combine their forces, and we expect that the first successful regimen will attract Big Pharma, which could use its resources to conduct large-scale trials and market the therapy successfully.”

However, a number of significant barriers have presented themselves to new HIV treatments, including the fact that vaccine R&D has at present been deprioritised by Big Pharma.

Valmas continues: “Big Pharma does not consider HIV or other STD vaccines as lucrative as those for airborne diseases, such as influenza, because of the limited patient segments that an HIV vaccine would initially address. As a result, research is instead being conducted by biotech companies, as well as academic and government-funded institutes, which sadly may not possess the financial capabilities to proceed to Phase III trials.”

Continuous improvements to ART will also have a strong impact on HIV R&D approaches towards a cure, as new regimens, such as integrase inhibitors, boast a much better safety profile.

“As integrase inhibitors are and will also be available as single-tablet regimens, therefore easing the dosage and increasing patient compliance, it is clear that this latest generation of ART could significantly threaten the adoption of novel curative treatments.

“It is therefore still a long way off before a functional non-ART cure or preventative vaccine for HIV will be available on the market,” concludes Valmas.

*PharmaFocus: HIV – R&D Strategies towards Cure and Prevention

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