Be cured of HIV forever. Scientists from Hong Kong are testing a drug for a complete cure for the disease

Perhaps humanity in the future will get rid of the tireless killer that has been accompanying us for the past 40 years.

Immuno Cure BioTech, a clinical-stage biotechnology group based in Hong Kong Science Park that specializes in DNA vaccines, has begun phase I clinical trials of ICVAX, a therapeutic HIV/AIDS vaccine. The trials are taking place at the National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases at the Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital, writes LabioTech .

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HIV is the causative agent of AIDS. Today, HIV continues to spread, with the result that by 2021 more than 38 million people are already living with the virus, and more than 40 million people worldwide will die from it.

Lifelong antiretroviral treatment (ART) does not cure HIV/AIDS and does not fully restore immune function, so the company says it is critical to find an effective immunotherapy to potentiate host immunity to achieve a functional cure in HIV-infected patients who are not on ART.

Scientists at the Hong Kong Institute have created a PD-1 specific-enhanced DNA vaccine platform that has been licensed exclusively to Immuno Cure worldwide. The innovation of this platform is based on targeting a soluble antigen to nerve cells to trigger enhanced host immune responses, especially to T-lymphocytes, which are the main force of immune surveillance to destroy HIV-infected cells.

ICVAX was developed by Immuno Cure in collaboration with a Hong Kong institute to launch broadly reactive polyfunctional virus-specific T cells to achieve a functional cure for HIV/AIDS.

The study was designed as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of ICVAX in stable patients with HIV/AIDS receiving antiretroviral therapy. By the end of the study, an optimal vaccination schedule that is both safe and immunogenic in stable HIV patients will be determined for further clinical trials in the future.

In addition to ICVAX, the company currently has another PD-1 boosted DNA vaccine, ICCOV, in preparation for moving into phase II clinical trials to combat COVID-19.

Jin Xia, CEO, said: “The launch of this Phase 1 clinical trial is supported by promising preclinical results and safety evaluations that have demonstrated the antiviral activity of this first-in-class therapeutic vaccine designed and developed specifically for HIV. We are extremely impressed with the professionalism of the National Center for Clinical research at the Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen. I am optimistic about the outcome of this trial and really want to move on to the next stage as soon as possible.”

Chen Zhiwei, Director of the Hong Kong University AIDS Institute and Chief Scientific Adviser of Immuno Cure, said: “HIV has been a major public health problem for over four decades. With the support of the Case Study Scheme, our vaccine platform has demonstrated safety and high efficacy in non-human primates. I very excited to launch this clinical trial, which will bring immediate benefit to patients and help us assess whether the excellent preclinical data can be transferred to humans, laying a solid foundation for the development of a vaccine for a functional cure for HIV.” 

Focus has previously written about whether viruses can accelerate human aging . The war between our immune system and microbes continues throughout our lives, but without our help, it cannot be won.

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