Earlier this month, I discussed how Claros Diagnostics had found a way to make HIV testing easier, cheaper and more efficient than traditional tests.
While that’s certainly good news, it’s no help to the 33 million people already living with the virus.
You see, to keep the virus from reproducing, infected patients must take their current HIV drugs for the rest of their lives. Worse yet, the average cost for a lifetime of treatment is $600,000.
The best solution is to invent a new drug that will eradicate HIV for good.
Well, Seattle-based biotech, Koronis Pharmaceuticals, believes it’s done just that.
Let me explain…
Kill HIV By Making it Grow
Currently, HIV drugs work by keeping the virus from replicating.
But Koronis Pharmaceuticals has developed a drug that does just the opposite. It doesn’t prevent the virus from reproducing. Instead, it actually forces the virus to mutate more often.
The drug – KP-1461 – increases the frequency of mutation, causing the virus to become unstable and eventually weak enough to collapse.
Koronis puts it another way: “Think of HIV as a house made of 2 x 4s, and the genetic backbone of the virus as the foundation of that house. [This drug] replaces the 2 x 4s with toothpicks, and eventually the house comes crashing down.”
As a result, the drug would only need to be taken long enough for the virus to destabilize. So not only would it save lives, but lower costs for patients, too.
So far, the drug has been tested on 80 HIV patients who hadn’t seen success with antiretroviral treatments. The company released results of a mid-stage clinical trial in January, showing that KP-1461 was able to boost the virus’ mutation frequency by 20%.
With that said, the company needs to run more tests to verify that the drug can fully eliminate the virus. If future tests prove successful, Koronis will revolutionize HIV treatment overnight.
Unfortunately, there’s one obstacle standing in the way right now…
KP-1461 Threatens to Collapse a $14 Billion Market
Since Koronis is a private company with limited resources, it needs to partner with a major pharmaceutical company to continue testing.
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So what’s the problem? Greed.
As Koronis’ CEO, Don Elmer, puts it, the HIV treatment “business model is predicated on the chronic application of drugs that have very high margins. Collectively, [Big Pharma companies] are quite happy to just to let things kind of evolve on their own.”
You see, HIV treatments currently rake in $14 billion a year. And although it’s not a nice thought, pharmaceutical companies aren’t exactly thrilled with a new drug company that could put a huge dent in their profits.
What Koronis needs now is at least $15 million to run the new trial. According to Forbes, the company’s “in discussions with the six big firms that dominate the HIV sector: Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD), Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), Abbott (NYSE: ABT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Merck (NYSE: MRK) and ViiV.”
These companies are sitting on an average of around $7 billion in cash right now, so I expect one of them to step up to the plate soon.
After all, when given the choice to either team up with a game-changing new drugmaker or sit by and watch a competitor make history, $15 million seems like a no-brainer. Even to the greediest pharmaceutical giant.