Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Awarded $20 Million

To study a monoclonal antibody treatment for HIV.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) announced Thursday that the hospital received a four-year, $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “evaluate and test broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of HIV.”

“We have recently demonstrated the profound therapeutic efficacy of the potent broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibody PGT121 in rhesus monkeys chronically infected with a monkey version of human HIV,” said Dan Barouch, MD, the grant’s principal investigator and the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC, in a statement.

The money will go toward conducting what BIDMC reps say is “proof-of-concept studies in monkeys and will launch Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in HIV-infected humans.”

The report explains why antibody work is different from antiretroviral therapy, which is currently the standard treatment for HIV:

Antibodies work through a mechanism that is distinct from that of antiretroviral therapies. “Whereas existing antiretroviral drugs only inhibit replicating virus, antibodies directly target free virus as well as virally infected cells,” explains Barouch. The team will also investigate the use of PGT121, in conjunction with antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce viral reservoirs that persist with ART alone.

While ART has been effective at controlling HIV-1 replication, it does not cure HIV-1 infection. HIV-1-infected individuals therefore require lifelong daily ART, which results in substantial cost, inconvenience, burden on the healthcare system and delivery problems due to the cascade of care in the developed world and inadequate access in the developing world.

“Based on [this] data, we will investigate whether PGT121, either alone or in combination with other monoclonal antibodies, will suppress or eradicate HIV in humans,” Barouch said in a statement.