Tag Archives: HIV


Calimmune completes $15M Series B financing

Calimmune Inc., a clinical-stage gene therapy company, has successfully completed its $15 million Series B financing round, led by a large pharmaceutical company. Alexandria Venture Investments also joined with existing investors including RA Capital Healthcare Fund LP and Translational Accelerator LLC. Proceeds will be used to progress the company’s ongoing HIV/AIDS clinical trials, advanced technology research programs and general corporate operations.

Cal-1, the company’s lead therapeutic candidate, is a gene-based therapy engineered to control HIV infection and to protect individuals with HIV from progressing to AIDS. The therapy is currently being evaluated in Phase I/II studies. Cal-1 is designed to reduce production of CCR5, a protein on the surface of white blood cells that plays a critical role in enabling HIV to infect cells. It also has a second mechanism aimed at preventing viral fusion, the process by which the virus enters the cell. This dual approach was shown to be effective against broad strains of HIV in pre-clinical studies.

In clinical trials for Cal-1, volunteers with HIV are infused with their own blood stem cells as well as mature T cells that have been treated with Cal-1. By reducing CCR5 expression and preventing HIV viral fusion, Cal-1 may protect the treated cells against HIV and has the potential to provide a continuous means of controlling HIV after a single treatment. The initial study sites are Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco and The UCLA CARE Center.

“Calimmune has assembled a world-class team and a comprehensive technology arsenal that harnesses the power of gene therapy to combat HIV and potentially a wide range of challenging diseases,” said Peter Kolchinsky, Ph.D., managing partner at RA Capital.

“We are inspired by the support of such a high-caliber group of investors who share in our vision to provide enduring, perhaps lifelong, benefits to patients whose daily lives are severely compromised by currently incurable devastating diseases,” said Louis Breton, chief executive officer of Calimmune. “Over the past several decades, HIV/AIDS has shifted from a deadly disease to one that can largely be managed with medication. The next logical step in the evolution of HIV/AIDS patient care is finding a cure by enhancing the body’s own defenses.”

The primary objectives of the Phase I/II trial for Cal-1 are to assess safety, determine the ease of use and feasibility for individuals living with HIV, and evaluate what, if any, side effects may exist.

According to the World Health Organization, some 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. In the United States, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS exceeds 1.2 million. Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a disease that severely impairs immune function and leaves the body vulnerable to numerous secondary infections and complications.


TGen study provides new insights on HIV

A new study led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) provides insights into the interplay among bacteria, viruses and the immune system during HIV infection.

Currently, doctors measure HIV-positive men’s infectivity — their potential to infect others — based on their blood viral load. However, some men produce large amounts of virus in their semen despite having low levels in their blood. Researchers call this “compartmentalization,” where different levels of the virus can be found in different parts of the body; in this case, in the semen, versus the blood.

Because of the importance of semen in HIV transmission — in both homosexual and heterosexual populations — researchers who conducted the study published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens sought to understand how HIV could be localized, or compartmentalized, in the semen.

Significantly, the study revealed a link between higher levels of HIV and higher levels of both bacteria and cytokines, biochemicals that can be described as the immune system’s alarm bells.

“Our study is trying to tackle an important problem in HIV research,” said Dr. Lance Price, Director of TGen’s Center for Microbiomics and Human Health, and one of the study’s senior authors. “We found that HIV infection affects the relationship between semen bacteria and immune system, and both are linked to semen HIV levels.”

These findings could point to new ways to control the spread of HIV, said Dr. Price. “Our data suggest that semen bacteria may play a role in localized inflammation and HIV viral load in the semen, which is an important target for reducing HIV transmission.”

While HIV can be found in many body fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk), it is most commonly transmitted via semen in both homosexual and heterosexual sex.

Homosexual men were the focus of this study because they continue to be the population most at risk for HIV in North America. The study included 27 homosexual men infected with HIV, and 22 homosexual men who were uninfected.

The 27 infected individuals were examined before treatment, and at both one-month and six-month intervals following treatment with anti-retroviral therapy (ART). Samples from the 22 uninfected participants in the study served as controls.

“By comparing the semen bacteria in both uninfected and infected men, we found that HIV can cause an imbalance in the semen microbiome,” said Dr. Cindy Liu, the study’s lead author, a clinical pathology resident at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and an adjunct professor at TGen at the time of the study. “This imbalance can be corrected by HIV treatment. This suggests that there are complex host-microbe interactions in the semen.”

“We have taken the first step to show that bacteria, HIV, and immune response in the semen may be connected,” said Dr. Rupert Kaul, an immunologist from the University of Toronto, and another senior author of the study. “What we need to better understand next is the precise relationship between these three factors — whether the bacterial imbalance is the trigger or the result of the localized immune response.”

The authors of the study, The Semen Microbiome and Its Relationship with Local Immunology and Viral Load in HIV Infection, are particularly excited about what this research may mean for another important patient population.

“Even though we have focused on men whose semen viral load can be controlled with HIV treatment in this study,” said Dr. Kaul, “we need to study men who continue to have high HIV levels in their semen despite being on treatment. This will be important to improving how we treat patients and control the spread of HIV.”

marketing budget

How could budget cuts impact Arizona?

The White House released a list of impacts to Arizona from automatic budget cuts that are set to take hold this week.

The White House compiled the numbers from federal agencies and its own budget office. The numbers reflect the impact of the cuts this year. Unless Congress acts by Friday, $85 billion in cuts are set to take effect from March-September.

As to whether states could move money around to cover shortfalls, the White House said that depends on state budget structures and the specific programs. The White House didn’t have a list of which states or programs might have flexibility.

The White House says the losses that Arizona would incur as a result of the automatic budget cuts include:

EDUCATION: $17.7 million in lost funding for K-12 schools. The lost funding could result in about 240 teaching and aide jobs being put at risk. Additionally, Arizona would lose about $10 million for 120 teachers and staff who help children with disabilities.

— Head Start services would be eliminated for about 1,000 children in Arizona.

— About 2,300 fewer low-income students in Arizona would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 330 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

ENVIRONMENT: Arizona would lose $2.1 million in funding for efforts to protect air and water and guard against pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste.

MILITARY: About 10,000 civilian employees for the Department of Defense would be furloughed. That would reduce gross pay by $52 million.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Arizona would lose $298,000 in grants for law enforcement.

JOBS: Arizona would lose $781,000 in funding for job-search assistance. That translates to 26,000 fewer people getting help to find jobs.

CHILDREN: Up to 500 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care.

HEALTH: About 2,500 fewer children will receive vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and Hepatitis B.

— The state will lose $611,000 for improving its ability to respond to public health threats, such as infectious diseases, natural disasters and other events. In addition, Arizona will lose about $1.9 million in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse. The state also will lose $186,000 resulting in around 4,600 fewer HIV tests.

WOMEN: Arizona could lose up to $132,000 for services to victims of domestic violence, meaning 500 fewer victims could be served.

SENIORS: More than $1 million for providing meals to seniors could be lost.

BORDER: U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not be able to keep the same staffing levels of Border Patrol agents and CBP officers. Funding and staffing reductions would increase wait times at airports and weaken security between ports of entry. The White House didn’t provide specific financial figures on how the budget cuts will affect ports of entry in Arizona.