Researchers have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and can prevent infection in primates. It is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, making it harder for HIV to resist its effects.
A three-pronged antibody made in the laboratory protected monkeys from infection with two strains of SHIV, a monkey form of HIV, better than individual natural antibodies from which the engineered antibody is derived.
The three-pronged antibody, created by investigators from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi, also stopped a greater number of HIV strains from infecting cells in the laboratory more potently than natural, single antibodies.
“Combinations of antibodies that each bind to a distinct site on HIV may best overcome the defenses of the virus in the effort to achieve effective antibody-based treatment and prevention,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of NIH.
“They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that’s been discovered,” said Dr. Gary J. Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., Sanofi Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President.
“The partnership between NIAID and Sanofi has been invaluable and allows us to move this trispecific antibody from the lab and preclinical testing into the clinic,” said Dr. John R. Mascola, M.D., director of the NIAID Vaccine Research Center.
The ability of trispecific antibodies to bind to three independent targets at once could make them a useful prototype for treatments developed not only for HIV but also for other infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and cancers, according to the study authors.
The International Aids Society has said it an “exciting breakthrough.” Plans are under way to conduct early-phase clinical trials of the “trispecific” antibody in healthy people and people living with HIV.
These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date. The study was published in the journal Science.