A new report published Friday containing key results for ImmTAV, a preclinical candidate for HIV. The TCR-based immunotherapy medication has succeeded in targeting T-cells in which the HIV infection often “hides” from drugs. Just after presenting their promising results from its previous leading candidate at ASCO 2016, ImmTav’s maker Immunocore now makes headlines in infectious disease prevention.
Results for ImmTAV are published in Nature’s publication entitled Molecular Therapy. In collaboration with the University of Oxford, the work outlines the application of TCR (which is known to be a “sibling” of CAR-T) in order to try and cure HIV. While in the past antiretrovirals have done an excellent job improving the management of HIV, a total cure is still out of reach. The disease is still able to infect 27 million bodies around the world.
The biggest obstacle in searching for a cure is clearing all of the copies, or virus reservoirs, of HIV in the body. These copies are known to persist in long-lived CD4+ T cells, that are notorious for showing little signs of infection. The only signs it may show are that of HIV epitopes in the cell surface. This way, they have the ability to escape the immune system.
ImmTAV is able to re-direct the immune system and aim at killing HIV-infected cells, even the ones that hide, like CD4+ T-cells. The study was carried out in cells from the infected patients, who had all previously been treated with antiretroviral therapy. Because of this, ImmTAV has the potential to improve the health of patients who even have the HIV infection under control. The therapy is proven to work more efficiently than the patients’ natural immune system response due to the fact that it is designed to detect low levels of viral proteins.
This type of “reservoir-targeting” strategy is already outlined as a priority within the biotech industry. The success of this drug has been kept from the public radar, but can help further explain the 300 million euros that ImmTAV’s makers acquired last year from private investors. Overall, the success of ImmTAV is excellent news for the field of HIV research.