By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D.
Since the 1980’s, the emphasis in the medical community has largely been on treating or preventing AIDS—not curing it. However, recent advances have created new opportunities to develop a global cure, which could end AIDS for good. Logically, the goal with any infectious disease must be to nip it in the bud, lest it comes back to bite us. Without a cure, stigma, complacency and the mistaken belief that medicines for treatment and prevention are 100% effective will shackle generations to come to expensive drugs just to stay alive.
Less than 1% of the world’s population —mostly people of northern European descent—is naturally resistant to HIV infection. In 2007, Dr. Gero Hutter at Charite University Medicine Berlin, Germany, was the first to conduct tests to see whether naturally HIV-resistant stem cells obtained from such individuals could cure AIDS. Dr. Hutter performed a standard stem cell transplant to treat cancer in a patient who also had AIDS, except using HIV-resistant stem cells. Twelve years later, in 2019, Dr. Ravindra Gupta, at University College London, England, performed a similar treatment also using naturally HIV-resistant stem cells to treat a second patient having both cancer and AIDS. Both patients were cured of AIDS as well as cancer.
What’s needed next is a method to create HIV-resistant stem cells for each patient using their own stem cells, as opposed to using curative stem cells obtained from rare, naturally HIV-resistant donor individuals. In the case of patients who do not suffer from cancer, this would eliminate most of the risks, costs, and complications that the first two patients faced. Scientists are currently researching cell engineering methods to develop such a safe cure for AIDS that can be used on a global scale; I am one of these biologists.
When I realized that a biotechnology I had invented at The Rockefeller University and commercialized via Chromocell Corporation might one day help to yield a safe and scalable cure, I set out to establish the best charitable use of our technology and leverage it to shake complacency, give hope, and
We’ve put promising science on the table. Now we’re looking for partners to build momentum, start-up laboratories dedicated to curing AIDS and accelerate the science. You can learn more and help us ignite the torch to cure AIDS by visiting FreeFromAIDS.org.
The author is a biologist, biotech inventor, a gay man and the President of RFTCA.