Case Western Researcher Receives $11 Million Grant to Test Promising New HIV Treatment

Feb 13, 2018

A new therapy being developed at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine infuses a patient with their own immune cells that are genetically engineered to resist the HIV infection.
Credit CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

A Cleveland researcher has received $11 million to test a promising technique to rid the body of the virus that causes AIDS. The therapy offers hope for the 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV, especially the roughly 10 percent of patients who don’t respond to antiretroviral drugs.

Rafick-Pierre Sekaly of Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine is one of the world’s leading AIDS researchers.  And, while he shies away from calling it a cure, Sekaly is excited by the new therapy.

“This is to me one of the most import moments of my career,” he says.

He believes it’s the most promising therapy thus far for treating HIV.

“This is the first intervention where we clearly see an effect, and a sizable effect, but it’s something that absolutely to be confirmed in a controlled study.”

Rafick-Pierre Sekaly is working with Sangamo Therapeutics to test the safety of a new therapy that makes T-cells resistant to HIV infection and removes the reservoir of virus in infected cells.
Credit CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

Sekaly is partnering with California-based Sangamo Therapeutics to treat people with HIV by removing their immune cells, genetically engineering them to resist the AIDS virus, and then infusing the cells back into the body.

The $11 million National Institutes of Health grant will allow Sekaly to set-up a lab in Cleveland to test the new therapy’s safety, starting with a group of 30 patients.

He says the treatment could offer a much-needed option for people with antiretroviral-resistant HIV.

“This is the only alternative we can offer them in a safe way,” says Sekaly.

Sekaly says the lab will begin operating this summer. The study will take about four years.