June 12, 2024

In a groundbreaking stride toward combatting HIV, researchers have achieved a significant breakthrough in the quest for an effective treatment. Published in the prestigious journal Science on February 29, 2024, findings from a collaborative preclinical nonhuman primate study have illuminated a potential new avenue for managing HIV without the need for daily antiretroviral treatment (ART). 


Researchers at multiple institutions, including the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center and led by virologist James Whitney from Boston College and Harvard University, showcased the efficacy of a novel combination therapy involving an interleukin-15 superagonist therapy termed N-803 (marketed as Anktiva) along with broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). This promising therapy demonstrated the ability to enable the immune system to control HIV in individuals. 


Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the preclinical study conducted on rhesus macaques infected with chimeric simian-human immunodeficiency virus AD8 (SHIV-AD8) yielded encouraging results. The combination therapy of N-803 and bNAbs led to durable viral remission after discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy. 


Despite initial immune activation and transient viremia, the treatment showed only minor changes in the SHIV reservoir. Upon discontinuation of ART, approximately 70 percent of the treated macaques experienced long-term virus control for up to 10 months, marking a significant milestone in HIV research. 


These promising preclinical results have paved the way for the initiation of two Phase 1 clinical trials aimed at investigating the efficacy of N-803 and bNAbs in reducing viral loads in HIV-infected humans receiving antiretroviral treatment. One of the clinical trials, which includes an analytical treatment interruption to assess the impact of immunotherapies on post-therapy viral loads, is already underway at the Rockefeller University.  


Jon Levine, director of the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC), expressed optimism about the findings, highlighting the potential for widespread use of such therapies in HIV-infected patients. “This groundbreaking research not only offers hope for individuals living with HIV, but also represents a significant step forward in the global fight against the virus.” Levine said. 


As researchers continue to push the boundaries of medical science, the prospect of achieving sustained remission and ultimately finding a cure for HIV grows ever closer.  

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