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CCR5 immunotoxins as components of HIV cure regimens

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R41AI165350-01A1
Agency Tracking Number: R41AI165350
Amount: $300,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIAID
Solicitation Number: PA20-265
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-07-13
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-06-30
Small Business Information
Kensington, CA 94708-1109
United States
DUNS: 116968569
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (415) 695-3818
Business Contact
Phone: (734) 646-6657
Research Institution
OFFICE OF RESEARCH - SPONSORED PROGRAMS 1850 Research Park Drive, Suite 300
DAVIS, CA 95618-6153
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

This project will establish proof-of-concept for CCR5 immunotoxins as HIV reservoir-depletion agents
for use in cure strategies. HIV cure and remission strategies require elimination or reduction of the HIV
reservoir. Approaches to reservoir reduction pursued by other groups include gene editing, i.e., direct removal
of integrated provirus; latency reversal and an accompanying “kill” strategy; and “block-and-lock”, which is the
effective elimination of reservoir cells by permanently suppressing gene expression.
We instead pursued a strategy of directly eliminating potential reservoir cells in early infection, hypothesizing
that most early reservoir cells express CCR5. Using a CD3/CCR5 bispecific antibody for reservoir depletion,
we demonstrated delayed rebound in 4/7 and apparent cure of 2/7 SIV-infected infant macaques. One cured
animal was necropsied 204 days after ART withdrawal and the second remains aviremic after 1.6 years. Both
were depleted of CD8+ T cells to encourage viral rebound, but no rebound was seen. No proviral DNA was
detected in circulating cells at any time point following ART withdrawal. Sensitive viral outgrowth assays failed
to recover replication-competent virus. No proviral genomes were detected in the tissues of one sacrificed and
apparently cured animal. Thus, results obtained so far show that these animals have achieved at least
“functional” and perhaps sterilizing cure.
The bsAb we employed achieves very efficient, transient depletion of CCR5+ cells but also causes an
inflammatory reaction with cytokine production and temporary CD3+ lymphopenia. Tendel is therefore
developing CCR5 immunotoxins for use in curative anti-HIV regimens. We hypothesize that CCR5
immunotoxins can achieve specific and minimally toxic depletion of CCR5+ T cells from blood, gut, and
lymphoid tissues.
SA1. Produce optimized immunotoxins based on CCR5 ligand-toxin fusions. Previously published
immunotoxins were effective at high concentration in vitro but failed in-vivo tests. In this aim we develop new
immunotoxins based on CCR5 ligands combined with linkers of different lengths and with various toxin
candidates. We then test the candidates in vitro for specific lethality to CCR5-expressing cells.
SA2. Test pharmacodynamics of development candidates in rhesus macaques, with a focus on CCR5
depletion from gut tissues without immune activation. Here the development candidates from Aim 1 are
assessed in macaques and the results compared to depletion achieved by the benchmark bsAb, which is
already shown to be potentially curative. Most importantly, these experiments test if candidate immunotoxins
can achieve nearly 100% CCR5 depletion for at least several weeks in recipient animals.
Our preliminary data show that the CCR5+ reservoir is an “Achilles’ heel” in early SIV and perhaps HIV
infection. The proposed research will pursue proof-of-concept for novel Tendel immunotoxins.We are seeking effective treatment for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The strategy is to reduce the
amount of HIV hiding in the body so that the immune system can achieve control over the infection. We will
test strategies for removal of HIV-infected cells from the body and determine if such strategies can
contribute to remission or cure.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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