Examples of media coverage:
- Gilead Sciences (GILD) May Have Found A Cure For HIV! – CNA Finance, May 18, 2015
- This Experimental Drug Could Finally Cure HIV – Motley Fool, May 18, 2015
Unknown, possibly a Gilead Sciences presentation to investors, although it is highly unlikely the company claimed that the drug may cure HIV.
For reasons that are unclear, two websites that cover financial news have published wildly erroneous stories suggesting the company Gilead Sciences may have discovered a cure for HIV.
The drug in question is named GS-9620, and it has shown some promise in a small study involving monkeys infected with SIV (HIV’s simian equivalent). Administration of GS-9620 to macaques on antiretroviral therapy (ART) appeared to slightly reduce levels of the latent SIV reservoir, but it did not lead to a cure. When ART was interrupted, viral load rebounded in all animals, and there was no evidence that the viral load rebound was slower or delayed in macaques that received GS-9620. However, when viral load stabilized (described as the viral load “set point”), levels were somewhat lower in GS-9620 recipients.
These data were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) earlier this year, and a webcast of the presentation is available online. Many news outlets and community-based organizations (including TAG) covered the presentation at the time (e.g. see article from AIDSMap).
Evidence suggests GS-9620 may have a dual mechanism of action, both inducing production of virus by latently infected CD4 T cells and enhancing immune responses (such as natural killer cells), that could potentially contribute to clearing the infected CD4 T cells. GS-9620 interacts with toll-like receptor 7, an immune cell receptor involved in the recognition of pathogens, and has been studied in people with hepatitis B and reported to be safe.
An initial phase I trial in HIV-positive individuals is now underway and results should help shed light on whether GS-9620 might be able to reduce the latent HIV reservoir and potentially contribute to achieving a cure. But yesterday’s headlines suggesting that GS-9620 might be a cure for HIV are completely incorrect and irresponsible.