Local News

Triangle Company Claims To Have Major Breakthrough In AIDS Research

Posted July 17, 2002

— The Triangle has always been a leader in AIDS research. AZT, the first HIV drug, was discovered in the area. A Triangle pharmaceutical company is now poised to make a major impact on HIV treatments.

Trimeris scientists are working on what could be the biggest breakthrough in AIDS treatment since the triple cocktail. T-20 is the first drug that fights HIV from a whole new angle. It offers new hope for a growing number of people who are resistant to current medications.

"It's a large number of patients that really need new medicines right now," said Dani Bolognesi, chief executive officer of Trimeris.

T-20 is what researchers call a fusion inhibitor. Inside the body, it binds itself to the HIV, stopping it from invading the cell.

"It shuts the door in the virus' face. All of the current drugs attack the virus after it's gone inside the cell," Bolognesi said.

Early studies of drug-resistant patients show that those who took T-20, along with other antiviral drugs, were twice as likely to achieve undetectable HIV levels. They also had improved immune response. Because the drug does not enter cells, it is less toxic and does not interact with other medications.

T-20 does have to be injected the skin twice a day. While the shots can irritate the skin, few patients quit taking it.

"It was well tolerated and accepted, given it does have to be administred by injection twice a day. We are looking at more convenient ways for the patient to take the drug," said Dr. Lynn Smiley, senior vice president of clinical research.

Trimeris estimates it will take $500 million to take T-20 to market. It will be an expensive drug, but it is one, researchers say, is needed to get an upper hand on the disease.

"It's winning. It continues to win and we need new medicines to stay a step ahead of it," Bolognesi said.

The results are based on information 24 weeks into the trial. It will last another 24 weeks. Trimeris will then submit its application for approval by the Food and Drug Administration. It is already given priority and could be available early 2003.


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