Merck, Dewpoint Collaborate to Develop Potential HIV Curative Treatment


Boston-based Dewpoint Therapeutics and Merck will collaborate to develop a novel mechanism for the treatment of HIV by harnessing Dewpoint’s proprietary platform for condensate-based drug discovery. The companies have hope that the research could lead to a cure for the devastating disease.

Ann Kwong, head of research and development at Dewpoint Therapeutics, said she is excited about working with Merck, a leading company in the development of treatments for HIV. The goal for the companies is to develop a medication that could provide a potential cure for the disease rather than a suppression of the infection, Kwong said.

“I’m thrilled that we have the chance to work together to try to develop the first HIV curative treatment,” Kwong said in a brief statement.

Dewpoint launched in 2019 with a goal of using cutting edge insights into biomolecular condensates to uncover new and more effective treatments for some of the world's most concerning diseases. Biomolecular condensates are well-defined, membrane-less organelles found inside cells that take advantage of intrinsically disordered regions of proteins to organize certain proteins and nucleic acids in cells through a process called phase separation. New research has shown the condensates are key players in a range of biological functions and disease processes, including viral infection, Dewpoint said. Dewpoint’s high-throughput condensate platform provides the ability to see and understand the complex interactions of biomolecular communities—and to find drugs that intervene in entirely new ways. By targeting both individual molecules and interacting groups of molecules within condensate communities, the company aims to create new treatments for diseases that were previously untreatable or incurable – such as HIV.

Daria Hazuda, vice president Infectious Diseases Discovery at Merck Research Laboratories and chief scientific officer at the Merck Exploratory Science Center, said the company is committed to developing new treatment options for HIV, including the exploration of novel methods that could lead to a cure for the disease.

In 2018, Merck won regulatory approval in the United States for two HIV treatments, Delstrigo, a once-per-day triple combination treatment, and Pifeltro, a new non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Both Delstrigo and Pifeltro are indicated for the treatment of HIV-1 in adults with no prior antiretroviral treatment experience. More recently, at the International AIDS Conference in June, Merck presented data from the Phase IIb trial evaluating islatravir, an investigational nucleoside reverse transcriptase translocation inhibitor (NRTTI) in combination with doravirine, the company’s non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), in adults with HIV-1 infection who had not previously received antiretroviral treatment.

Under terms of the agreement, pharma giant Merck will provide Dewpoint up to $305 million in upfront and milestone payments. Other than the announcement of the collaboration and the financial terms, the companies remained tight-lipped on the process they will take against HIV.

Merck isn’t the only pharma giant that Dewpoint is working with. Last year, the company entered into a $100 million collaboration with Bayer to identify and develop new therapies for cardiovascular and gynecological diseases. In that agreement, the companies intend to harness Dewpoint’s biological condensate technology platform and Bayer’s small molecule compound library to discover those therapies.

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