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2005 News Archive
New Strategy Shows Promise in Treating HIV

August 16, 2005: LONDON (AP) - A new treatment strategy has shown promise in helping to transform HIV into a curable infection. Preliminary research published this week in The Lancet medical journal outlines how scientists used an anti-convulsant drug to awaken dormant HIV hiding in the body, where it is temporarily invisible but still dangerous.

HIV infection is incurable because current drugs only work when the virus is multiplying, which occurs only when it is in an active cell. However, HIV sometimes infects dormant cells, and when it does, it becomes dormant itself.

While the virus poses no threat in its resting state, the sleeping cells sporadically wake up, reactivating the virus and causing it to multiply. Patients must continue to take medications for the rest of their lives so they can fight the virus when it comes out of the reawakened cells. Only if every last infected dormant cell is wiped out - or the virus purged from these cells - can patients stop taking medication and be virus-free, experts say.

Figuring out how to clear this reservoir of latent infection, or whether that's even possible, is one of the hottest areas of AIDS research.

Over the last few years, a handful of drugs have been shown to decrease the size of the dormant HIV pool, but they were subsequently abandoned because their effect was either too weak or the side effects too toxic.

The latest drug, valproic acid, shows more promise, said Dr. Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Institute for Virology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco.

"It's a first baby step, showing that maybe the use of (this type of drug) - far more likely in combination with one or two other agents - might be a viable approach for tackling this latency problem," said Greene, who was not involved with the research but is conducting similar studies.

"The idea, if we could ever do it, is to purge every latently infected cell. Treat patients for probably two or three years, they'd be able to come off their antiretroviral therapy and they'd be virus-free," he said.

The study, led by Dr. David Margolis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tested the ability of valproic acid to reduce the number of infected dormant cells.

Four patients on standard therapy were given the pills to take twice daily for three months. The size of this pool of infected dormant cells decreased by 75% in three out of the four patients, the study found.

"This finding, though not definitive, suggests that new approaches will allow the cure of HIV in the future," Margolis said. "It's a significant conceptual move forward."

Margolis said he believes the drug reactivates the virus inside a dormant cell, either waking up the cell with it or killing it.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who also studies the dormant HIV issue, said Margolis' results were an impressive first try.

"It's enormous for just three months' treatment to have such an effect," he said, adding that the findings merit urgent further study. "I think it's very exciting news."

However, other experts were less optimistic.

"It's extremely unlikely that this approach would work," said Dr. Robert Siliciano, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who was one of the scientists who discovered the dormant infection problem in the mid-1990s. "It assumes something about the mechanism which we don't know is true. The mechanism may involve other issues that are not affected by this drug."

"It didn't get all the cells. That's probably because it's not really targeting the right mechanism for latency," Siliciano said. "It's got to be a 99.9999% reduction to be useful. When you stop the drugs the virus explodes back so quickly, even if you had one latently infected cell left, in a matter of days you would be back to where you started from."

Siliciano said he also doubts the valproic acid approach will solve the problem because it's likely HIV lies dormant in other types of cells that scientists have not discovered yet and tackling those reservoirs may require a completely different approach.

"It's a little bit premature to be talking about a cure for HIV," he said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

President of BD Medical Elected to the Board of the Academic Alliance Foundation

May 16, 2005: The Academic Alliance Foundation (AAF) announced today that Gary M. Cohen, President, BD Medical, has been elected to its Board. The AAF is dedicated to fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic by supporting programs designed to combat the disease in the countries hardest hit by the virus. The main focus of AAF's efforts is to train African healthcare providers. BD Medical is one of the three operating segments of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company, NYSE: BDX) and among the world's leading suppliers of medical technologies.

"The Academic Alliance Foundation's honorable mission to develop innovative, sustainable programs that respond to devastating diseases in Africa is well aligned with BD's purpose as a company, as well as with my personal beliefs," said Gary Cohen. "It is an honor to be elected to the board of an organization that is having such an important impact on health care in the developing world."

"We have chosen Mr. Cohen to sit on our board because his dedication to improving healthcare in the developing world is one that we share," said Merle Sande, M.D., President, Academic Alliance Foundation. "His experience in successful international health programs will help direct the activities and progress of the Academic Alliance Foundation as it strives to be a leading force against the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa."

In his work at BD, Mr. Cohen dedicates a significant amount of time towards addressing developing world health issues. He has made this personal commitment because he believes that the Company's capabilities and experience in medical technology can help save and improve countless lives around the world. Mr. Cohen and the BD team work in cooperation with international agencies such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, discussing health policy issues and making available, on a sustainable basis, devices and technologies that help in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases that have reached pandemic proportions in developing countries.

Cohen has been a speaker and expert panelist in policy and advocacy forums involving HIV/AIDS, and was among the senior level delegates accompanying U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on a visit to four African countries in December 2003 to study the impact of HIV/AIDS. He is a member of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's Leadership Group for Hope Lives Here: UNICEF's Campaign Against AIDS, which is focused on assisting families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Mr. Cohen is a board member of the Perrigo Company and the Rutgers School of Business, where he was recently recognized as a distinguished alumnus.

About AAF
The AAF was born out of a unique private-public partnership between academicians of Africa and North America, the pharmaceutical industry and other organizations and institutions looking to unite in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This partnership, the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa (AA) began attacking the most pressing global health crisis of our time by supporting and strengthening the medical infrastructure in Uganda to better train and prepare its physicians, scientists, nurses, pharmacists and laboratory technicians to respond to the challenge of the pandemic in Africa. The men and women of AA developed an innovative combination of clinical care, prevention and research programs that is becoming the most sought after training for African health-care professionals in the Region.

The Academic Alliance Foundation was created in September 2003 to develop, support and sustain the activities and projects of the AA to fight HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases in Uganda and beyond. The support of the AAF will allow the collaborative efforts of the Academic Alliance members towards these objectives to continue into the future. Additional information on AAF can be found at www.academicalliancefoundation.org

About BD
BD is a medical technology company that serves healthcare institutions, life science researchers, clinical laboratories, industry and the general public. BD manufactures and sells a broad range of medical supplies, devices, laboratory equipment and diagnostic products. For the fiscal year ended September 30, 2004, BD reported total revenues of $4.935 billion. 

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