GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a healthcare manufacturer based out of UK, which decided to retain its HIV drugs business last week, is to collaborate with U.S. scientists in developing a cure for AIDS.
Until recently, the scientific world was reluctant to even discuss the possibility of curing the disease caused by HIV, which infects 35 million people worldwide, since the obstacles seemed insurmountable.
But after a 30-year battle to keep HIV at bay with life-time antiretroviral drugs, there is growing optimism that a cure is feasible. Timothy Ray Brown, the most famous Berlin patient, survived the deadly disease with a complex treatment for leukemia in 2007.
GSK is tapping into the latest expertise by creating an HIV Cure center with the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and establishing a new jointly owned company.
The drugmaker has already announced that it would invest $20 million to help fund the work for an initial five years. Researchers will study various cure options, including a so-called "shock-and-kill" strategy developed at UNC, which unmasks dormant HIV hiding in white blood cells, so that it can be attacked by a boosted immune system.
"In the next five to 10 years we should gain more knowledge around the various mechanisms that could contribute to a cure and maybe in the next 10 to 20 years we can really bring these modalities together," said Zhi Hong, GSK's infectious diseases head.