The 10 Leading Patient Engagement Solution Providers in 2018 Leading Patient Engagement small - Page 24

Immunotherapy What makes HIV so dangerous is that it a acks the immune system, leaving people unprotected against infec ons. But what if we could supercharge immune cells to fight back? That's the reasoning behind immunotherapies. Researchers reported last year that thanks to an immunotherapy that primes the immune system against the virus, 7 out of 15 pa ents were cured. Their approach combines a drug to ac vate the hidden HIV reservoir with a vaccine that can induce an immune response thousands of mes stronger than usual. Gene therapy It is es mated that about 1% of the people in the world are naturally immune to HIV. The reason is a gene c muta on on the gene that encodes CCR5, a protein on the surface of immune cells that the HIV virus uses to enter and infect them. People with this muta on are missing part of the CCR5 protein, making it impossible for HIV to bind to it. Using gene therapy, it would, in theory, be possible to edit our DNA and introduce this muta on to stop HIV. In the future, gene therapy for HIV could be done with CRISPR, a gene edi ng tool that is much easier and faster to make. Its poten al in HIV has already been shown in vitro, and soon HIV could become of the first diseases to be cured with CRISPR. When will we have an HIV cure? Although there are several approaches that could eventually bring a functional HIV cure, there are still some challenges ahead. One of the biggest concerns around any HIV treatments is the virus' ability to quickly mutate and develop resistance, and for many of these new approaches there is still no data on whether the virus will be able to become resistant. So far, none of these functional cures have reached late-stage clinical testing, meaning it doesn’t seem likely that we will meet the goal of having an HIV cure by 2020. 22 | December 2018