Minnesota Daily features CDD research on HIV/AIDS (Prof. Steve Patterson)

Monday, September 9, 2013

University of Minnesota researchers have found that two cancer drugs combined in pill form can be used to fight HIV. The research, published Aug. 30, still has a long road ahead before the pill can be tested on humans — a road that will take years to travel. “The road is littered with the carcasses of failed drug treatments,” said Dr. Keith Henry, director of HIV research at the Hennepin County Medical Center. “Most fail, even if they look good in theory.” But Steven Patterson, associate director of the University’s Center for Drug Design, and one of the scientists who worked on the project, isn’t worried.

“We’re very optimistic about clinical translation,” he said. The University has a lucrative history of HIV research. Ziagen, an HIV-fighting pill, has garnered more than $600 million in royalties since University researchers designed it in the 1980s. Now, that money helps fund new projects like Patterson’s in the Center for Drug Design.

A $50,000 seed grant from Ziagen royalties originally funded the project, said Robert Vince, the center’s director and one of the researchers who developed Ziagen. The cancer drugs are normally given by injection, Patterson said. But because other HIV drugs are available in pill form, he said, he doesn’t think patients would be interested in an injected drug. The study confirmed the drugs could be taken as a single pill. With this discovery, Patterson said, he’s confident it will be useful for people with HIV. The drugs increase the number of mutations as the virus reproduces, making the new viruses defective, he said.