Under the leadership of Dr. Serhat Gumrukcu and with the collaboration of the in the field, Seraph Research Institute is aiming to be among the world’s leading institutions in fighting against HIV/AIDS through the pursuit of novel and innovative prevention, treatment, and cure strategies.
Individuals with HIV that take their medicine, antiretroviral therapy (ART), as prescribed and maintain an undetectable viral load can live long, healthy lives and have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to a partner. In recent years ART has changed HIV-infection from a death sentence to chronic disease. However, ART requires life-long therapy that is expensive and has the risk of significant side effects. In addition, drug resistance is growing, requiring new and often more costly products. From a person-centered approach, life-long therapy can be challenging and, unfortunately, stigma and discrimination remain strong throughout the world.
GOING FOR THE CURE
It has been proven that gene-editing to knockdown the expression of CCR5 — a door HIV needs to enter, replicate within, and kill CD4+ T cells — in autologous hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) combined with transplantation can lead to a cure of HIV. However, the approaches currently available require an expensive and risky ablation of the immune system. Even with that drastic intervention, an insufficient number of gene-modified cells survive to achieve durable control of HIV.
Dr. Gumrukcu has pioneered a novel approach that has the potential to allow sufficient engraftment of the gene-modified HSC to eliminate the need for ART.
THE TOUGH CASES
Even though ART has improved the standard of care in HIV, a significant subset of HIV patients still has evidence of drug resistance due to suboptimal therapy prior to combination treatment and/or poor adherence. This is a particular problem in major cities in the United States in California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and certain countries, for example, Brazil and Thailand, where there was widespread use of mono- and duo-therapy in the 1980s and 1990s. Substantial numbers of HIV patients fail to adhere due to a variety of reasons, including adverse side effects, drug abuse, mental disorders, socioeconomic status, literacy, and social stigma. Such patients have ongoing viral replication, often with significant levels of plasma viremia, and, therefore, have severely compromised immune systems with limited options and an inexorable pathway to significant morbidity and, ultimately, death.
Despite significant efforts, little progress has been made to ameliorate patients with unsuppressed plasma viremia. Indeed, the challenge is so significant that it has escaped solving by researchers for decades.
Seraph Research team is investigating new approaches aiming to treat people with uncontrolled HIV viremia.
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