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Human trials are about to begin for a treatment that will potentially cure HIV

Biotech company Excision Biotherapeutics has received FDA clearance to begin phase 1/2 of human trials for a potential HIV cure.

Excision, the developer of Nobel Prize-winning  CRISPR gene-editing technology, has partnered with Temple University in Philidelphia to develop an HIV treatment known as EBT-101.

The way EBT-101 works is by cutting multiple parts of the HIV genome in an attempt to make the virus unable to mutate inside the body.

Credit: Excision BioTherapeutics

“If you just make a single cut, the virus can mutate around it. We make multiple cuts to deactivate the viral genome”, Excision’s CEO Daniel Dornbusch told Fierce Biotech in a special report.

Thanks to the company’s previous discovery of CRISPR gene-editing technology, they are able to modify human DNA and potentially provide a functional cure for humans living with HIV.

Dornbusch told Philidelphia magazine that the term “functional cure” means small amounts of HIV could remain in the body, but not at a level that would make the affected person test positive for the virus.

“Sterilising cures are not necessary, as the goal of the therapy will be for individuals to remain HIV negative by RNA testing, maintain normal levels of immune cells, and cease taking antiretroviral treatment — achieving a functional cure.

EBT-101’s goal is to be a one-time treatment that would eradicate the need for a patient to use antiretroviral therapies (ART).

ART works by combining a number of HIV medications to decrease the amount of the virus in a patient’s body, resulting in the virus being unable to attack the immune system and the patient being unable to pass the virus along.

While living with HIV has become possible with the use of ART in the last couple of decades, the quality of life needs to see a great deal of improvement. People living with HIV currently require life-long treatment that can cause major side effects.

Side effects can include but aren’t limited to nausea, vomiting, and can even be as substantial as causing kidney, liver, or pancreas damage.

Trials for the new treatment will include people using ART, with those receiving the new treatment remaining on ART for three months. After this period, they will no longer take ART and will be checked for the return of HIV.

Since the start of the HIV epidemic, 79.3 million people have been infected with 36.3 million having sadly died. According to the World Health Organisation, 3.7 million people were living with HIV in 2020.