The following is a video and transcript excerpt from an interview conducted with David Alain Wohl, M.D., discussing highlights and clinical takeaway messages from the 2021 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2021), which took place in March. In this video, Wohl talks through new developments regarding broadly neutralizing antibodies for COVID-19, and the extent to which they may translate to similar developments in HIV.
We didn’t hear very much at this conference around broadly neutralizing antibodies—except about COVID-19. But broadly neutralizing antibodies have been talked about quite a bit for HIV.
The concept is the same as what we’re talking about with monoclonal antibodies for COVID: We take antibodies that have been found to be extremely potent in neutralizing virus from survivors, or from people who were able to mount a response to the pathogen—with HIV, that means people who’ve done really, really well with their HIV infection and whose antibodies just kick ass in the lab—and giving cocktails of these against the virus, because the virus mutates so quickly and can evolve around a particular antibody.
But, yeah, we’re not there yet.
At the HIVR4P Conference, there were some data from AMP Study and others showing that this is really a concept that’s ready to go. And there was a plenary around broadly neutralizing antibodies [for HIV presented at CROI 2021]. But for COVID-19, it’s really just been incredibly remarkable that there are three products out there right now. And we heard even more about therapeutics for COVID-19 in a very short period of time. And while these are very, very different viruses, I do think that there are some lessons here.
We saw at this conference, presented to the world, [that] monoclonal antibodies that are given to people in nursing homes, under attack from COVID-19, reduced the rate of symptomatic COVID-19 in a very, very vulnerable population by 80%. Nobody died who got a monoclonal antibody in these trials. Household contacts of somebody who was COVID-19-positive and symptomatic, you know, 50% reduction and attenuation of virus in the nose if they did get infected. I mean, these are just remarkable results. And then there’s all the treatment data for people with early COVID that indicates that if you start these therapies early, that you can actually drop down viral load in the nose.
So, I just feel like the signposts are there for us in HIV to catch up, and maybe accelerate, our own antibody work. Because I do think that there are some ways that broadly neutralizing antibodies, like monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19, can help prevent future [HIV] infections.
So, that was another take-home for me: Looking at the COVID-19 data, it’s hard not to think about translating that over to HIV.