Strategies against persistent HIV-1 reservoirs

01 January 2020 → 31 December 2023
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Immunology not elsewhere classified
Project description

SAPHIR, aims to contribute to the healing of HIV-1. This project is supported by a consortium with experience in HIV diagnostics and medication development. Based on this complementary expertise of the partners becomes both the therapeutic and the diagnostic aspect of the investigation.

Currently, 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV-1 and are affected weekly 25,000 new people worldwide are HIV-positive. Despite the progress made in the treatment of HIV-1 has made AIDS one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Without Most infected patients die within 8 years of infection. The The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all HIV-1 infected patients be treated to treat. But currently only 60% of them have access to antiretroviral therapy. Even in Europe, only 60% of patients receive therapy, which is worryingly low. Even when an HIV-1 patient is under therapy, a persistent reservoir of replication-competent viruses are present. This reservoir gives rise to persistent information and major non-AIDS pathology, such as cardiovascular disease, associated HIV-1 neurocognitive impairment, liver fibrosis and lymphomas. Lifetime treatment is currently available the best option for HIV-1 patients, but only an HIV cure will give them the chance to have a normal life. Patients are struggling with the burden of lifelong medication intake and them learn to live with the risk of becoming ill and / or infecting partners if the treatment is discontinued. These factors are an immense psychological burden for each patient. In addition, the chronic treatment is associated with a high cost for the society. In 2017, more than 16,000 patients were being treated for HIV-1 in Belgium. This entails an annual cost of more than 10,000 € per patient (more than 160,000,000 € / year). Consequently, the cure for HIV-1 is one of the most important unmet today's medical needs. In the US, patient advocacy groups collaborate with charities and governments to provide financial support for research into HIV boost healing. However, Europe is lagging behind due to a lack of financial support. There is an urgent need for diagnostic measurement methods for monitoring HIV-1 healing and more efficient therapies for achieving HIV-1 healing. At the intersection between basic , preclinical and clinical research, SAPHIR meets this need.

Specific goals to be achieved by SAPHIR:

  • To gain insight into the impact of the HIV integration site on the transcriptional status of the virus to better understand HIV persistence
  • Validation of a 'block and lock' strategic by adjusting virus integration sites in one pre-clinical model system
  • To gain insight into the impact of HIV integration on the clonal expansion in cells that express immune checkpoint markers
  • Validation of at least one lung non coding RNA-protein interaction as a new target for the elimination of the HIV-1 reservoir
  • Validation of lung non-coding RNAs in both cell culture and relevant patient samples can be used as a biomarker to determine the reactivability of the reservoir.
  • Validation of at least one EV-based marker indicating the elimination of the HIV-1 reservoir measure in cell culture and in relevant patient samples