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ViiV Healthcare and UNC-Chapel Hill announce five-year renewal of innovative HIV cure partnership

Unique public-private collaboration provides continued funding for HIV Cure Center and Qura Therapeutics, the joint venture that brings academic and pharmaceutical research scientists together

Issued: London, UK

ViiV Healthcare, the global specialist HIV company majority owned by GSK, with Pfizer Inc. and Shionogi Limited as shareholders, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a leading global public research university with significant expertise in HIV basic and clinical research, today announced a five-year, $20 million renewal of a unique, public-private research partnership solely focused on discovering a cure for HIV.

Since its inception in 2015, this collaboration, the first-of-its-kind in the field of HIV cure, has brought together the skills of academic and pharmaceutical industry researchers to create a deeper understanding of how HIV works and develop a new approach to eradicating HIV that could be tested in humans for the first time in the next few years.

Deborah Waterhouse, CEO of ViiV Healthcare, said: “Five years ago when we announced this innovative collaboration, we were inspired by the possibility that with the right resources and research teams, we would be able to make a meaningful impact towards a cure for HIV. Although there is still much left to do, this public-private partnership is making a difference. We are excited to continue this partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill for another five years and look forward to the contribution our unique skills and shared commitment could make to finding a cure for HIV.”

Under the terms of the agreement, ViiV Healthcare and UNC-Chapel Hill scientists will continue to work side by side at the HIV Cure Center, which was created at the start of the collaboration five years ago and located on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. ViiV Healthcare and UNC-Chapel Hill will also continue to jointly own Qura Therapeutics, the company created in 2015 to manage the intellectual property, commercialization, manufacturing and governance needs of the collaboration.

Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill, said: "This groundbreaking venture has flourished thanks to the talent and dedication of top scientists and researchers from Carolina and ViiV Healthcare. I am thrilled that this innovative partnership will continue making discoveries and advancing a cure for HIV, one of the most pressing challenges of our times."

Research currently underway through the HIV Cure Center and Qura Therapeutics is centered on the concept of “induce and reduce.” This strategy is first focused on identifying the copies of HIV that may be hiding in human immune cells while the virus is suppressed through antiretroviral therapy. Once identified, the virus is driven out of hiding (induce) so that it can be eliminated (reduce). This therapeutic approach strives to specifically affect the virus while minimizing the impact on the body beyond the hidden infected cells. 

The pioneering research of Qura Therapeutics on the induce strategy was most recently published in the journal Nature.[1] The paper describes how, using a class of drugs new to the HIV field, a signalling pathway in cells was activated that could robustly induce the hidden HIV to reactivate and become visible. Bringing the virus out of hiding is often seen as the greatest obstacle to curing HIV infection as these hidden, HIV-infected cells can persist despite decades of antiretroviral treatment, and these findings mark significant progress towards a cure for HIV.[1]

“Without the Qura partnership we would not have been able to get this far, this fast,” said David Margolis, MD, Director of the UNC HIV Cure Center and Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology & Immunology, and Epidemiology at the UNC School of Medicine. “We have accomplished a great deal in less than five years and hope to accomplish a good deal more in the years to come to help people living with HIV around the world.”

About Qura Therapeutics

Qura Therapeutics was formed in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and ViiV Healthcare and is focused on finding a cure for HIV. This unique public-private partnership is redefining the traditional way of conducting research and is creating a new model to seek the breakthroughs needed to tackle an extraordinarily challenging global health issue. Worldwide, 37 million people are living with HIV. While highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has offered the opportunity for most but not all infected individuals to achieve relatively normal life expectancies, there is, as yet, no cure and the search for one remains a top priority of health organizations worldwide.

Qura Therapeutics is providing financial and material support to the UNC HIV Cure Center to discover a cure for HIV and Qura Therapeutics will also assist in the development of therapies that emerge from the research.

About ViiV Healthcare

ViiV Healthcare is a global specialist HIV company established in November 2009 by GlaxoSmithKline (LSE: GSK) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) dedicated to delivering advances in treatment and care for people living with HIV and for people who are at risk of becoming infected with HIV. Shionogi joined in October 2012. The company’s aim is to take a deeper and broader interest in HIV/AIDS than any company has done before and take a new approach to deliver effective and innovative medicines for HIV treatment and prevention, as well as support communities affected by HIV.

For more information on the company, its management, portfolio, pipeline and commitment, please visit www.viivhealthcare.com.

About GSK

GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. For further information please visit www.gsk.com/about-us.

About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 74 bachelor’s, 104 master’s, 65 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools including the College of Arts & Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s 336,392 alumni live in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Territories and 164 countries. More than 182,182 live in North Carolina.

Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking statements
GSK cautions investors that any forward-looking statements or projections made by GSK, including those made in this announcement, are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Such factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 3.D 'Principal risks and uncertainties' in the company's Annual Report on Form 20-F for 2019.

References

[1] Nixon CC, Mavigner M, Sampey GC, et al. Systemic HIV and SIV latency reversal via non-canonical NF-κB signalling in vivo. Nature. 2020 Feb; 578(7793):160-165.