Public Release: 

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center awarded $20 million grant to study HIV treatment

Studies will evaluate and test monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of HIV

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

BOSTON - Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has 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," says the grant's Principal Investigator Dan Barouch, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Barouch is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, which played a pivotal role in this research and provided initial funding to launch this project.

The investigators will now conduct proof-of-concept studies in monkeys and will launch Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in HIV-infected humans. "Based on these data, we will investigate whether PGT121, either alone or in combination with other monoclonal antibodies, will suppress or eradicate HIV in humans," says Barouch.

Antibodies work through a mechanism that is distinct from that of antiretroviral therapies, the standard treatment for HIV. "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.

"Dr. Barouch's team leads a world-renowned research program aimed at developing novel strategies to prevent and cure HIV," says BIDMC President and CEO Kevin Tabb, MD. "This generous support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enable these scientists to continue this promising line of investigation to eradicate this deadly virus."

In addition to Barouch, project leaders include co-investigators Dennis Burton of The Scripps Research Institute and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard; Bruce Walker of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard; Romas Geleziunas of Gilead Sciences; and Kristine Swiderek of Theraclone Sciences.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and currently ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide.

BIDMC is in the community with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth, Anna Jaques Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, Lawrence General Hospital, Signature Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare, Community Care Alliance, and Atrius Health. BIDMC is also clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and Hebrew Senior Life and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit http://www.bidmc.org.

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