Biotech is working hard on developing an HIV cure, as well as fast diagnostics and vaccines. For those living with the disease, 2016 seems to be bringing new hope from the hands of science.

Today, the 1st of December, is World AIDS Day. More than 36 million people live with HIV and 1 million died last year. The only treatment for this devastating disease is antiretroviral therapy, which can stop the progression but does not eliminate the virus.

Thus, biopharma is putting plenty of efforts into developing a cure, vaccines, and better diagnostics to fight the epidemic. In Europe, 2016 has been particularly fruitful for HIV advancements, and there are plenty of companies offering tangible solutions that could soon make a huge difference. Check them out!

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A Cure by 2020?

As you might expect, there’s a lot going on in the development of an HIV cure. As we reviewed in depth earlier this year, stem cell therapy, gene therapy and immunotherapy could be the next breakthrough for an effective HIV treatment.

One of the most advanced therapies comes from Abivax and employs a small molecule that can specifically inhibit HIV RNA replication. The candidate, ABX-464, targets the hidden viral reservoirs in T cells and is currently proving effective in Phase IIa:

“We have one of the World’s Most Advanced Functional HIV Cures under development”

However, Abivax is not alone in the race for the first HIV cure. InnaVirVax recently entered Phase IIa trials with a technology based on the generation of antibodies against HIV:

Interview: This Biotech could have the first HIV Cure on the Market

Hot on their heels is the UK CHERUB collaboration, which recently announced that its first patient has been cleared of HIV, although final results won’t be available until 2018. This strategy activates dormant T cells in order to be able to attack the viral reservoir.

For its part, Bionor Pharma is testing a combined therapy in Phase IIa that can clear 88% of the viral load by inducing T cell responses. Other good news this year came from Immunocore, which published positive results in vitro for a strategy using TCRs to cure HIV.

The Quest for an Effective Vaccine

Prevention of HIV could be the key to eventually eradicate the virus. Sanofi Pasteur and GSK have one of the most advanced treatments, which just entered Phase III:

UPDATE: The HIV Frontier starts Phase III Vaccine trials in South Africa

For its part, Gilead recently received European approval for the use of an antiretroviral drug as a prophylactic strategy that could prevent the spread of the virus to some extent.

Fast Diagnostics

This year has brought some of the most exciting advancements in HIV diagnostics: an USB key developed at Imperial College London could reduce diagnostic time from 3 days to under 30 minutes:

USB key Diagnostic could help manage HIV Treatment Anywhere

Scientific Challenges

One of the main drawbacks when treating HIV is the rapid evolution of the virus, leading to the development of resistance. However, scientists just reported an antibody that can neutralize 98% of strains and is insensitive to HIV mutations:

One Antibody to Neutralize 98% of All HIV Strains: Closer to a Cure?


The year of 2016 is has brought many advancements towards an HIV cure and thus more hope for the millions of people living with HIV. At this pace, biotech could deliver an effective cure as early as 2020. Meanwhile, we can all help by raising awareness and learning how to prevent the spread of the disease. 


Featured image by jannoon028/shutterstock.com


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