- With a fresh infusion of funds from philanthropic organizations, companies are on a roll to stop HIV in its tracks by developing more effective strategies for drug therapy. Case in point is American biotechnology company Intarcia Therapeutics, Inc.
Intarcia Therapeutics is working on an anti-HIV prophylactic therapy (an implantable pump) that can hold six or 12 months’ supply of medicine. It has gotten funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which is investing up to $140 million. Bill Gates tweeted, “I got to learn about this fascinating HIV-prevention technology first-hand. It could help prevent new infections.”
Of that $140 million funds, $50M will be channeled into the Series EE round, and up to $90 million in non-dilutive milestone-based grants are tied to the HIV prophylactic program. The device is deemed particularly helpful for people in sub-Saharan Africa, where the highest HIV and AIDS burden exists.
It has been noted that poverty — as well as social and cultural factors — tend to get in the way of people and their medicine (particularly single daily pills that need to be popped). Intarcia therapeutics is making planned enhancements to its proprietary Medici technology platform that will make life easier particularly for such people hindered from taking full control of their health.
Disruptively Innovative Medicines
Intarcia Therapeutics CEO Kurt Graves announced opening “a new category of disruptively innovative medicine for the treatment & prevention of chronic diseases” affecting, among others, those individuals with some of the greatest unmet needs.
While HIV therapies have played a key role in managing the dreaded malaise, HIV has continued to spread, owing mainly to poverty. The virus has taken the highest toll in economically-strapped regions such as sub-Saharan Africa that lack the resources for wide distribution of drugs and appropriate dispensation of healthcare to curb the disease.
Emilio Emini, director of the Gates Foundation’s HIV program stated in interviews that the daily HIV prevention pill, though promising to reduce infection risk by a large percentage, has a much lower real-world effectiveness. It is one thing for anti-HIV bodies to harp on the importance of staying on treatment, and quite another for those afflicted with HIV to remember or be firm on taking the pill every single day.
The exploration of more effective strategies for HIV drug delivery has been done by other companies in the past. In fact, the findings by a team of scientists from Oak Crest Institute for Science on a subdermal implant delivering potent antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to curb the spread of HIV were published in 2015 in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.