Benitec Announces NIH Funded AIDS Collaboration

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Benitec Ltd. announced a collaboration with City of Hope (based in Duarte, Calif.) to develop a novel T-cell based therapy for AIDS patients.  This collaboration will be the second HIV-related collaboration between Benitec and City of Hope and will be funded through Phase I clinical trials by a portion of a $7.5 million federal grant awarded to City of Hope by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Maryland, through its innovative preclinical and clinical program. 

Collaborators with City of Hope on the grant include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington and Colorado State University.  Benitec plans to develop the key quantitative assays to support the regulatory submissions for this program in 2006.

The T-cell therapy collaboration will strengthen the continuing work between Benitec and City of Hope to develop novel AIDS therapies and will build on findings from their ongoing research to treat AIDS lymphoma.  This new collaboration is intended to examine the safety and efficacy of RNA immunotherapy in patients for whom highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has not succeeded.  This portion of the program stems from the seminal work of John J. Rossi, PhD, chair of the division of molecular biology of the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, demonstrating RNA-mediated inhibition of HIV replication.

John A. Zaia, MD, chairman of the division of virology of the Beckman Research Institute and principal investigator on the grant, stated, Ultimately, you want to replace T-cells through stem cells, but T-cell immunotherapy is a potentially viable therapeutic for AIDS patients who have lost T-cells.  Our early results are highly promising and a T-cell approach will allow us to treat patients earlier in the disease progression of AIDS.

Commenting on this proposed collaboration, Sara Cunningham, CEO of Benitec, stated, City of Hope has a leading reputation for both HIV research and stem cell therapies and brings a comprehensive suite of clinical trial capabilities to the table including GMP manufacture of the therapeutic.  This work is intended to extend our efforts to develop novel RNA-based treatments for AIDS patients that provide better and safer alternatives to HAART.

Source: Benitec, Ltd.