SOURCE: RetroVirox Inc.

RetroVirox Inc.

March 12, 2015 07:30 ET

RetroVirox Awarded $3 Million NIH Grant to Develop Drugs to Cure HIV Infection

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - Mar 12, 2015) - RetroVirox, Inc. a Biotechnology company focused on viral diseases, announced today it has received a $3.0 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop immunomodulators to eradicate HIV infection with "shock and kill" therapies. This Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant will support the development of small-molecules that enhance the elimination of HIV-reactivated cells with the goal to achieve a functional cure for HIV.

HIV affects over 35 million people worldwide. Patients can be successfully treated with antiretroviral cocktails and achieve viral load reductions below levels of detection. However, infected individuals also carry in their genome copies of the HIV provirus in a state of latency. In this form, HIV can hide for decades within cells and tissues named "viral reservoirs," where the virus remains virtually invisible to the patient's immune system. Due to the HIV's ability to remain dormant, antiretroviral therapy must be administered throughout the patient's lifetime. Treatment interruption results in rebound of the viral load, which often leads to the appearance of resistant strains that further complicate therapy. RetroVirox is developing immunomodulators as components of "shock and kill" strategies to eradicate HIV. In these approaches the dormant virus is first purged away from the viral reservoirs by activating latently-infected cells to produce viruses. The killing of these reactivated cells is then facilitated with small-molecules that enhance the ability of the immune system to recognize HIV antigens. RetroVirox molecules target an activity used by the virus to escape immune recognition and act solely in HIV-infected cells. RetroVirox CEO, Juan Lama Ph.D., points out that, "HIV has evolved strategies to remain invisible to immune cells by interfering with human proteins required for recognition of infected cells. Our goal is to develop drug candidates to target this HIV activity and allow the own body's immune system to recognize and eliminate infected cells. Our small-molecules could also be used as adjuvants to potentiate vaccines or to enhance antiretroviral therapy."

This new award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is the sixth received by RetroVirox. Since the company started R&D operations in 2009, RetroVirox has secured over $5 million in grants from the US government to support the company's antiviral programs. The SBIR grant mechanism is a highly competitive program that provides support to discover and develop innovative biomedical products for the treatment of unmet medical needs. RetroVirox's most recent $3M grant is among the largest Phase II SBIR awards issued by NIAID since 2010. "We are extremely grateful of the continuous support demonstrated by NIAID to our therapeutic programs," said Juan Lama.

RetroVirox is a privately-owned biotechnology company developing small-molecules for HIV eradication. The company also develops antivirals for the treatment of other viral diseases, including infection with highly pathogenic arenaviruses such as Lassa Fever Virus.

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