New Data Shows Promise Involving Lenacapavir for the Treatment of HIV

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A study published in the journal Nature on July 1 suggests that there may be a new way to target an HIV protein called capsid, which was almost unmanageable in patients until now. Researchers from Gilead Sciences have developed a new drug called lenacapavir, which targets capsid in the body and weakens the HIV virus’ outer coating. In short, it becomes more difficult for the virus to infect the body’s cells and protect itself from the body’s natural defenses.

Existing HIV treatments, which are typically taken daily by patients, target proteins involved in the early stages of the virus’ life. By targeting capsid, multiple phases of the virus’ life are impacted.

Typically, HIV patients are prescribed a combination of antiretrovirals that hone in on different proteins in an attempt to prevent HIV from becoming resistant to treatment. Martin Rhee, Gilead’s director of clinical research, hopes that the company can develop other long-acting antiretrovirals that could be given to HIV patients in combination with lenacapavir, according to Stat News. Gilead is currently looking into whether lenacapavir works in combination with the current HIV antivirals on the market.

On Wednesday, Gilead announced that new data from its HIV research and development program will be presented at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual) between July 6 and 10.

“Continued scientific innovation is essential to better understanding and addressing the evolving needs of people living with or at risk for HIV,” said Diana Brainard, MD, Senior Vice President and Virology Therapeutic Area Head, Gilead Sciences. “Gilead is actively pursuing innovative cure and long-term viral suppression strategies, while seeking to optimize antiretroviral and prevention therapies for all individuals impacted by HIV. Through the data presented at AIDS 2020: Virtual, we aim to advance care in a transformative way and contribute to the shared goal of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

Results from a Phase I trial that looked into the efficacy of lenacapavir will be presented at the event. In addition, HIV treatment data from a pooled analysis of four international trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of Biktarvy (bictegravir 50 mg/emtricitabine 200 mg/tenofovir alafenamide 25 mg; B/F/TAF) in adults aged 65 or older will also be revealed.

However, it isn’t just these HIV products from Gilead that have made headlines as of late. Back in March 2020, Gilead released data from clinical and preclinical studies that looked into the use of GS-6207, an investigational, novel, first-in-class inhibitor of HIV-1 capsid function, as a potential long-acting therapy for HIV patients. Results from the Phase Ib study showed that antiviral activity with GS-6207 through the last day of monotherapy (Day 10) resulted in significantly greater reductions in HIV-1 RNA in patients versus a placebo.

“There have been significant advances in HIV therapy over the past three decades but for some people living with HIV, moving away from the need to take daily treatment is an important priority,” said Brainard, at the time of the announcement. “By creating treatment options that can maintain virologic suppression regardless of a patient’s adherence to taking oral medications, our goal is to help people living with HIV remain virally suppressed for life. These promising early data are part of Gilead’s commitment to addressing the real-world needs of people living with HIV.”

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