City of Hope Researcher Gets $3.8 Million for Immunotherapy Trial for HIV

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DUARTE (CNS)  - The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine today awarded a City of Hope researcher $3.8 million to develop an immunotherapy trial that could lead to a one-dose treatment for HIV. 

Xiuli Wang, a research professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, is developing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells that would target and kill HIV-infected cells. The treatment also would use the cytomegalovirus vaccine to stimulate the immune system to proliferate and maintain the CAR T cells.``Our approach has the potential to change how HIV patients are treated,'' Wang said. 

``Our goal is for a person to receive this therapy once, which would make it possible for that patient to stop the antiretroviral drug therapy regime for the rest of their lives.''

CIRM's Grants Working Group, an independent panel of experts who review all of CIRM's applications for scientific merit, unanimously recommended Wang's initiative for the full funding requested, finding that it showed ``exceptional merit, necessary significance and potential for impact,'' according to City of Hope. 

The group is ``very enthusiastic [about] this novel, albeit high risk, bispecific CAR-T cell therapy approach to curing or effectively controlling HIV infection,'' according to the recommendation. 

``Reviewers thought that the rationale focusing on cytomegalovirus (CMV) specific T-cells and engineering them to target HIV-infected cells was based on sound scientific rationale and was supported by the preliminary data.''

Jeff Sheehy, a CIRM board member and patient advocate for HIV/AIDS, said there is a real need for a new approach to treating HIV patients. There is no cure for HIV, which  accounts for 16,000 deaths annually in the U.S, .and only half of HIV patients adhere to antiviral drug therapy in North America.``With 37 million people worldwide living with HIV, including 1 million Americans, a single treatment that cures is desperately needed. An exciting feature of this approach is the way it is combined with the cytomegalovirus vaccine,'' Sheehy said. 

``Making CAR T therapies safer and more efficient would not only help produce a new HIV treatment but would help with CAR T cancer therapies and could facilitate CAR T therapies for other diseases.''

Wang will use the CIRM funds to optimize the clinical manufacturing of the therapeutic product and submit the regulatory documentation to the Food and Drug Administration to initiate a clinical trial at City of Hope, hopefully within 18 months.CIRM was created by the 2004 passage of Proposition 71, which authorized $3 billion in funding for stem-cell research in California. 

The institute funds stem cell research at institutions and companies throughout the state with the goal of accelerating treatments to patients with unmet medical needs.

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