San Francisco, Calif. -- A strong arsenal of antiretroviral medications has succeeded in making HIV a chronic but manageable disease for most people infected with the virus able to access them. But they do not actually cure HIV infection or AIDS. And so, a group of leading HIV experts has come together to call for a major new commitment and better collaboration among industry, academic, government and patient advocacy leaders to identify therapies that will actually cure HIV infection, or drive it into remission.
Among the experts calling for increased focus on a cure in the March 6, 2009 issue of Science magazine is Martin Delaney, the Founder of HIV patient advocacy group Project Inform. The article appears posthumously for Delaney, who died on January 26, 2009. Titled "The Challenge of a Cure for HIV Infection," it is co-authored with three academics, Doug Richman of UCSD, David Margolis of UNC, Warner Greene of UCSF; one community advocate, Delaney; and two pharmaceutical industry leaders, Daria Hazuda of Merck and Roger Pomerantz of Tibotec.
"Current HIV medications have radically transformed the epidemic and restored or prolonged life for countless people. But the need for decades of their use by those patients who can actually get them is extremely expensive and their side effects can be profound," said Dana Van Gorder, Project Inform's Executive Director. "Good as they are, existing drugs are also incapable of eliminating latent reservoirs of the virus that go into deep hiding in the body. Novel new strategies must be developed to correct this problem. Today's scientific goal must be to actually cure HIV infection or, perhaps more realistically, force it into a state of remission that will allow patients to stop taking antiretroviral drugs. Accomplishing this will be difficult, but not impossible, and demands a level of focus, collaboration and funding that does not currently exist."
The three academics and two industry scientists who authored the Science article have individually been involved in independent studies of HIV latency and reservoirs, and there has been significant progress in understanding these conditions. "A flexible, collaborative private-public joint venture has the possibility to catalyze progress in the search for therapeutic interventions that can eradicate HIV and result in drug-free remission for HIV patients," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Company Group Chairman, Johnson & Johnson. "This new approach of 'open innovation' is critical if we are to meet the really big challenges that remain today in the HIV field, such as eradication."
Van Gorder said "Marty Delaney was the foremost leader of the movement to secure the inclusion of HIV-positive people in decision-making to identify safe and effective treatments for HIV. He never lost sight of the need for the world to cure HIV. Project Inform will carry on Marty's great legacy by helping to assemble the collaboration needed among its caring partners in academia, government and industry to meet this great scientific and humanitarian challenge."
A Memorial Service honoring and celebrating Delaney's life and work will be held in San Francisco on March 14 at 4:30 in the afternoon at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, 100 Collingwood Street at 18th Street.