Seeking a Cure: UNC, GlaxoSmithKline Create HIV/AIDS Center

The University and GlaxoSmithKline, a global research-based pharmaceutical and health care company with a legacy of success in developing treatments for HIV, are creating a dedicated HIV Cure Center and a jointly owned new company that will focus on discovering a cure for HIV/AIDS.

This public-private partnership, officials said Monday, aims to redefine the traditional way of conducting research and create a new model to seek the breakthroughs needed to tackle an extraordinarily challenging global health issue.

The HIV Cure Center, to be located on the UNC campus, will focus exclusively on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS. The new company, Qura Therapeutics, will handle the business side of the partnership, including intellectual property, commercialization, manufacturing and governance. The HIV Cure Center and Qura Therapeutics will serve as a catalyst for additional partners and public funding that likely will be needed to eradicate HIV. The collaboration also is expected to recruit and attract top talent from around the world.

“GSK has a long legacy of HIV research success,” said Sir Andrew Witty, GlaxoSmithKline’s CEO. “From the development of the world’s first breakthrough medicine for HIV patients in the 1980s to our leadership in the market today through ViiV Healthcare, we’re continuously challenging ourselves to meet the needs of patients. This partnership is a testament to our past and present leadership, innovation and commitment to this field. We are inspired by the confidence that with the right resources and research teams we will be able to make a meaningful impact towards a cure for HIV.”

UNC and GlaxoSmithKline will focus on the latest scientific approaches to curing HIV, including a leading research approach toward an HIV cure, sometimes called “shock and kill.” This approach seeks to reveal the hidden virus, which persists in people with HIV infection despite successful drug therapy, and augment the patient’s immune system to clear these last traces of the virus and infected cells. Part of this new paradigm was first tested at UNC. Then in 2012, a team led by UNC researchers demonstrated that latent HIV might be unmasked by new therapies. Recently, researchers at the University received Food and Drug Administration approval for a study in HIV-positive volunteers to combine this technique and an immune-boosting strategy.

“After 30 years of developing treatments that successfully manage HIV/AIDS without finding a cure, we need both new research approaches to this difficult medical problem and durable alliances of many partners to sustain the effort that will be needed to reach this goal,” said Dr. David Margolis, a UNC professor of medicine and leader of the Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication. “The ‘shock and kill’ approach has shown significant promise in early translational research on humans and has been the focus of research for the last several years.”

“Although today’s treatments for HIV mean that millions of lives have been saved, people still have to take a lifetime of treatments, which takes an emotional toll and places an economic burden on society that is particularly challenging in countries with limited resources,” said Zhi Hong, senior vice president and head of the Infectious Diseases Therapy Area Unit at GlaxoSmithKline. “This is why we must dedicate the next 30 years to finding a cure and scaling it up so that one day we will end the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Through the new company, GlaxoSmithKline will invest $4 million per year for five years to fund the initial HIV Cure Center research plan, and a small research team from GlaxoSmithKline will move to Chapel Hill to be located with UNC researchers. The University will provide laboratory space on its medical campus for the HIV Cure Center and the new company. GlaxoSmithKline will be contributing its expertise and know-how in medicines discovery, development and manufacturing, and UNC will bring to the table its research and translational medicine capabilities and talent as well as access to patients and funding.

More online:

  • Tenacity: In the laboratories and at the bedside, infectious disease scientists wage long campaigns against formidable foes — content with small victories, seldom recognized as heroes. From the May/June 2015 Carolina Alumni Review.



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