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Mary Pavlu, Program Communications Manager
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amfAR Partners with CytoDyn to Expand HIV Cure Strategy
Partnership will explore blocking key protein in stem cell transplant recipients
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, December 1, 2020—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, today announced it had signed an agreement with CytoDyn, a late-stage biotechnology company developing Vyrologix (leronlimab-PRO 140), a compound that may have the potential to advance efforts to develop a cure for HIV. The partnership will support testing the ability of Vyrologix to contribute to an HIV cure in stem cell transplant recipients.
The study is based on earlier amfAR work that provided evidence of the cures of the Berlin and London patients, Timothy Ray Brown and Adam Castillejo. Each was cured after being transplanted with donor cells lacking the CCR5 protein, the main doorway through which HIV enters and infects cells. As a CCR5 antagonist, Vyrologix has the potential to mimic the effects of the CCR5 delta-32 genetic mutation, which leads some people to be naturally resistant to HIV infection. Vyrologix may therefore help overcome the challenge of finding stem cell donors with this rare mutation. If successful, the approach may help broaden access to the only intervention shown to cure HIV to date.
“We are honored to be in partnership with amfAR and the opportunities to accelerate a search for an HIV cure using this scientific premise,” said Nader Pourhassan, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of CytoDyn. “Timothy Brown’s cure ignited hope that a cure can happen through bone marrow transplant from the rare individuals with a delta-32 mutation. The success in our animal studies for HIV with Vyrologix (leronlimab) has provided this opportunity. We are very excited to be supporting this project, and to be a part of this groundbreaking endeavor with amfAR.”
In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown was living with HIV and received a stem cell transplant to treat his leukemia. The cells came from a donor with the CCR5 delta-32 mutation. amfAR researchers declared in 2013 that they were unable to find any remaining HIV in Mr. Brown, supporting the notion that he had been cured.
In 2014, amfAR established the ICISTEM research consortium to attempt to repeat the Berlin patient case, a challenge due to the rarity of donors with the CCR5 mutation. ICISTEM characterized outcomes of stem cell transplants in people living with HIV and contributed to the 2019 report of the London patient cure. Further ICISTEM work supports the idea that blocking CCR5 is critical to a curative outcome.
“Using leronlimab to pharmacologically copy a CCR5-deficient donor for HIV cure is an exciting next step in our journey towards a cure for the 38 million people living with HIV,” stated Kevin Robert Frost, Chief Executive Officer at amfAR. “While a stem cell transplant is unlikely to be rolled out as an HIV cure, demonstrating that leronlimab can functionally phenocopy CCR5 deficiency and replicate the London and Berlin patients would be a major advancement.”
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and advocacy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $575 million in its programs and has awarded more than 3,300 grants to research teams worldwide.