Posted 11/21/18 on Baltimore

The work at the University of Maryland aims to contribute to treatments that could lead to “HIV remission and possible eradication.”

A team of Maryland researchers is leading an effort to develop a new HIV treatment that harnesses the body’s immune system to fight disease.

Yuxing Li, who is a professor at the Baltimore-based University of Maryland School of Medicine and a fellow at the University of Maryland’s Rockville-based Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, is leading the effort.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded a $3.9 million grant to develop the immunotherapy treatment for HIV-1, which is one of the most common viruses that causes AIDS.

“The overall outcome of this study will advance our basic understanding of protective immunity against persistent virus infection and contribute to the development of safe and effective strategies for HIV remission and possible eradication,” Li said in a statement.

Li will work with IBBR researchers, Dr. Qingsheng Li of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Dr. Keith Reeves of Harvard Medical School andBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

According to IBBR, the new treatment aims to block infection, and clear HIV-infected cells from the body in a way that currently available drugs known as antiretroviral treatments can’t do alone.

Previously, Dr. Yuxing Li’s team created antibodies that neutralized 95 percent of HIV-1 viruses. The upcoming work will “further optimize” the antibodies to recognize specific proteins and signal other parts of the immune system to assist in ridding the body of the cells that contain hard-to-reach “reservoirs” of the virus, according to the research team.

IBBR tabbed the work as having the potential to be commercialized and lead to new therapeutics.

Prior to NIH, the project received funding from MPowering the State, which supports work across University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. TEDCO’s MII program also supported proof-of-concept work.