Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute and other institutions have announced results from a new study on a novel drug candidate that has blocked every strain of HIV-1, HIV-2, and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that has been isolated from humans or rhesus macaques. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

The team used as a foundation previous research which found that the co-receptor CCR5 contains unique modifications in its HIV-binding region; proteins based on this region could be used to prevent infection, the researchers discovered. The novel drug candidate binds to two sites on the surface of the virus simultaneously to prevent entry of HIV into the host cell.

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Using preexisting technology, an engineered adeno-associated virus was used to deliver the novel drug candidate via injection into muscle tissue. This leads the cells to produce the new protective protein; it has been shown to protect against significantly higher doses of virus than occur in most human transmission for at least eight months after injection. Data suggests that the novel drug candidate binds to the envelope of HIV-1 more potently than the best broadly neutralizing antibodies against the virus.

Michael Farzan, PhD, who led the effort, states that “our compound is the broadest and most potent entry inhibitor described so far.” The protein has thus far been effective against all strains tested and may lead to an effective HIV vaccine alternative.

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