Rockville, Maryland’s American Gene Technologies (AGT), a leading gene therapy biotech company working to develop a functional cure for HIV and treatments for other diseases, recently launched a new HIV-focused video series entitled, “The Cure Chronicles.”
“The Cure Chronicles” features thoughtful and compelling conversations with people in the HIV community. The video series launched in late March 2022 and can be found on AGT’s website and YouTube as well as other digital media platforms.
The series is hosted by AGT’s CEO Jeff Galvin and discusses a wide range of HIV topics through the perspectives of people living with HIV, advocates, medical experts, policy makers, and more.
“General public awareness of HIV/AIDS has diminished since the advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART); this is particularly the case over the last several years as the COVID pandemic has taken center stage,” stated Galvin. “The perception is that the HIV epidemic is in the rear view mirror, that it’s been cured.”
“While great progress has been made, the fact remains that HIV/AIDS still impacts millions of people globally, killing hundreds of thousands each year. It’s important to keep giving a voice to the HIV community and its struggles and to show lived experiences from their perspective—this is what ‘The Cure Chronicles’ is all about and we’re thrilled to give this community another way to be heard.”
AGT has released three episodes to date, including:
Episode One: The inaugural episode of “The Cure Chronicles” features the journey of Dr. Marcus A. Conant, an early HIV/AIDS treatment pioneer who took the lead in conducting early clinical trials, persevering despite seeing 94% of patients die during the epidemic’s first years.
Episode Two: The second episode features LGBTQ+ advocate Bobby Cook, delving into his experiences when the HIV epidemic first started and how he came to found the Copper Cactus Ranch (a 40-acre retreat dedicated to creating a safe space for men to discover their own truth, overcome trauma and heal).
Episode Three: Episode three features HIV advocate Susan Cole-Haley, an award-winning HIV activist, broadcaster, and writer, who advocates for the rights of people living with HIV. Cole-Haley has been named Woman of the Year by NAZ OSCARS for her work with women of color living with HIV and has also been honored as one of the top 10 Black HIV influencers in the UK. Additionally, she leads the community engagement and broadcasting activities for the HIV information charity, NAM Aidsmap.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 79M people have been infected with HIV and over 36M people have died from AIDS since the epidemic began. In 2020, over 37M people were living with HIV and some 680,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses. Approximately 1.1M people are currently living with HIV in the U.S., according to the Kaiser Family Foundation; up until recently the new infection rate sat at around 50,000 new HIV cases per year. The most recent HIV surveillance study in 2019 showed an 8% drop in new infections, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which is an encouraging sign for an epidemic that continues to have a devastating impact throughout the global community.
This impact includes 28.2M people globally receiving ART. While ART keeps HIV in check, it is a lifelong therapy regiment; if ART stops, HIV always returns. And just like the HIV epidemic that is misperceived by the general public to be a crisis of the past, ART is also misunderstood—while ART has saved millions of lives and reduced premature deaths, the pervasive mental, financial and physical burdens on patients are reminders of HIV’s ongoing impact.
“For many of us life is fine, but we have to remember there’s so much more than simply having controlled HIV. There is still a stigma that plays a devastating role in the lives of people living with HIV; it’s across society…we still have a long way to go on a societal and government level,” stated Susan Cole-Haley, in Episode Three of “The Cure Chronicles.”
Led by CEO Jeff Galvin, the AGT team is on a mission to cure HIV. The company’s lead product AGT103-T is a gene therapy designed to functionally cure this devastating disease.
A functional HIV cure would remove the advantage HIV has over the immune system. Normally, HIV disables immune cells that respond to an infection. A functional cure protects these immune cells from HIV so they are able to exert constant pressure on the infection and keep it in check. A functional cure would eliminate the need for ART altogether.
AGT’s potential functional cure is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial. Early data emerging from the aptly named “RePair” (Restore Potent Antiviral Immune Responses) trial is promising; six patients have received the treatment so far and all have demonstrated safety and blood markers of potential efficacy. AGT has reached the next step in the trial’s progression: preparing to withdraw patients’ antiretroviral therapy to potentially demonstrate a functional cure.
If approved, AGT103-T could deliver its cure in a single dose that persists for life, freeing people living with HIV from relying on daily ART, HIV stigma, and the long term side effects of the disease.