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Grant to Fund Drug Reformulation for HIV Therapy

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A $1.1 million grant from the National Research Council of Canada will fund research and development at University of British Columbia and iCo Therapeutics Inc. in Vancouver, B.C. to reformulate an existing drug into a therapy to fight HIV infection. The company iCo Therapeutics specializes in redosing or reformulating current drugs into new or expanded applications.

The oral administration of the drug Amphotericin B (Amp B) was originally developed by UBC pharmacy professors Kishor and Ellen Wasan to address problems with existing formulations in treating individuals in the developing world afflicted with visceral leishmaniasis, a severe systemic disease that is usually fatal without treatment. Recent studies, says UBC, have shown that Amp B can enhance the efficacy of existing HIV therapies such as highly active anti-retroviral therapy.

This type of HIV therapy has been successful in managing and stabilizing HIV in patients, but the virus can persist by slowly replicating in tissue and blood. These long-lived HIV reservoirs make it possible for the infection to persist, which becomes a roadblock to eradicating HIV. Amp B has now been shown to help flush the virus from these reservoirs and enhance the effectiveness of existing therapies.

The company iCo Therapeutics has licensed the oral Amp B delivery system from UBC. The drug is currently administered in intravenous form for the treatment of systemic fungal infections. The company says initial data from pre-clinical studies indicate that Amp B is effective and has low toxicity when given within the dosage range required to treat diseases such as fungal infections and leishmaniasis. The FDA has also designated Amp B as an orphan drug for the treatment of visceral leishmaniasis.

Amp B was first developed at UBC under its Neglected Global Diseases Initiative. The $1.1-million grant is provided by the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, which is a part of the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, a joint program of the Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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