HIV is definitely under the spotlight today. Just after Theravectys’ announcement about its phase I/II success, InnaVirVax completed a third funding round to accelerate its Phase 2 clinical development. The first-in-class immunotherapy designed to treat HIV infections gained further support by all the historical investors in the company.

Since 1987, HIV has mainly been treated with a combination of distinct antiretrovirals. These drugs efficiently reduce HIV levels in the blood and prevent the disease from breaking out for many years. However, this therapy can’t completely eradicate the virus. The immune system remains active and patients frequently suffer from chronic inflammation processes that can cause secondary diseases.

With its lead candidate VAC-3S, InnaVirVax aims at protecting the immune system in patients treated with antiretrovirals. The drug is given through the company’s vaccine platform, which generates human polyclonal antibodies against 3S, a subunit of the HIV. With the aid of 3S, the virus binds to a certain entity of CD4+ T cells and eventually initiates their apoptosis, as shown in the following gif file:

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When the vaccine VAC-3S targets the 3S unit, the latter can no longer bind to the CD4+ T cell, which is hence protected.

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The French company raised €3,6M to accelerate the development of VAC-3S, which is currently in Phase 2 of clinical trials. The primary endpoint of this study is to evaluate the immune response to the administration of three different doses of VAC-3S given to HIV patients that receive antiretroviral therapy.

The fundraising was supported by the already existing investors FCPR CapDecisif 2, G1J Ile-de-France, Pradeyrol Development, Fa Dièse and Fonds Régional de Co-Investissement d’Ile-de-France. When VAC-3S receives market approval, InnaVirVax hopes for peak sales of €920M ($1Bn) per year.

As we have seen this morning with Theravectys’ announcement, InnaVirVax is not the only French company to seek a HIV cure. Theravectys chose the gene therapy approach, using a lentivirus to immunize the patient against HIV. Another French player, Biosantech, is also investigating a cure in a phase II trial. Its candidate is a inhibitor of the Tat protein (transactivator of transcription) which allow the virus to replicate. With these three challengers, France is definitely leading the way to develop a cure against HIV and help the 35 million infected people worldwide.

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