‘A rather remarkable feat’
Article Published by: unc.edu
UNC-Chapel Hill researchers and industry scientists are working side by side in the same lab on Carolina’s campus to find a cure for HIV — and they’re getting closer. ViiV Healthcare and Carolina have recently announced that they have signed a second five-year, $20 million contract to continue their groundbreaking research to find a cure.
HIV treatments have come a long way, but tens of millions around the world remain infected and need daily antiretroviral therapy — and unless new discoveries are made, they will need it for the rest of their lives.
Dr. David Margolis, Richard Dunham and all of the scientists working at the UNC HIV Cure Center are tackling this very issue.
Margolis is the director of the HIV Cure Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and is Carolina’s Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology. Dunham is the director of HIV Cure for ViiV Healthcare. Margolis and Dunham work closely together at the Cure Center, a partnership where academic researchers and industry scientists work side by side in the same lab on Carolina’s campus with one goal in mind: Find a cure for HIV.
Five years ago, UNC-Chapel Hill and GlaxoSmithKline announced the creation of a center dedicated to curing HIV and the formation of a jointly owned company, Qura Therapeutics. Since the initial announcement, ViiV Healthcare, an international pharmaceutical company focused on HIV, has taken ownership of GSK’s HIV research portfolio. This spring, ViiV and Carolina announced that they have signed a second five-year, $20 million contract to continue their groundbreaking research to find a cure.
“We are dealing with the most difficult problem in HIV research: how to get the virus out of latency so it can be eliminated and people can be truly cured,” Margolis said.
It’s a challenge, but Margolis said their current approach to a cure “sounds sort of simple.” When people are on therapy, the virus is latent, meaning there’s effectively no active virus spreading around in their bodies because the current antiretroviral drugs completely block that process.
“We are thinking of treating people who are on therapy, where there’s no virus spreading, but there is virus sleeping dormant in a few cells,” he explained.
In a nutshell, researchers are trying to push the virus out of hiding so it can be recognized by the immune system and eliminated.
Both Dunham and Margolis hope to find a cure for HIV so that people with HIV don’t have to be on treatment for the rest of their lives.
Because of this interdisciplinary collaboration that brings together the strengths of industry science and world-class academic research, the HIV Cure Center is closer than ever to achieving their goal. The team has tested a new way to expose the hidden virus and recently published in the journal Nature that this new strategy drives the virus out of hiding to an unprecedented degree.
The stage is now set to develop a novel medicine to advance to human trials.
“This is a rather remarkable feat in such a short amount of time,” Margolis said. “Everyone here has been dedicated to making this partnership successful. That means working together to progress new curative approaches from the lab to the clinic as fast as possible.”
About Scott Livengood
Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.
Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.
He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.