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Through Science and Innovation Janssen Aims to Make HIV History

Significant strides have been made in the global fight against HIV and AIDS. And yet, HIV remains one of the greatest global health challenges of our time, with 36.7 million people currently living with HIV worldwide and 1.8 million newly infected each year.1 With legacy spanning more than 25 years, the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson have been committed to delivering transformational solutions to meet the diverse needs of people living with HIV. Through our extensive research and development programs, our scientists are committed to driving innovation across the whole continuum of HIV care: prevention, treatment and the search for a cure.

Today, people who are diagnosed with HIV early and start appropriate treatment can expect to have a near-normal life expectancy. Due to innovations in therapy and improved access, for many, HIV has been transformed from an acute fatal illness to a manageable chronic condition. Since 2005, AIDS-related deaths have fallen globally by 48 percent; and since 2010, new HIV infections in children have fallen by 47 percent.2

Human immunodeficiency virus attacking a cellCredit: Shutterstock

Despite the significant progress made to date, there is much more to be done if we are to bring a stop to HIV, which remains a persistent problem in countries around the world. The epidemic continues to vary considerably between regions, for example, an estimated 1.1 million people were living with HIV in the US at the end of 2015, and of those, one in seven did not know they were infected.3 In resource-limited countries, such as sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls are particularly vulnerable – adolescent girls are contracting HIV at a disproportionate rate and is the leading cause of death amongst women of reproductive age.4 These examples underline why new approaches and advances are vital to ending the epidemic.

Driving transformational innovation to improve the treatment of HIV

At Janssen, we are combining our expertise in antivirals and the passion and dedication of our scientists to drive transformational innovation in HIV treatment.

In partnership with patients, advocates, healthcare professionals, other leading pharmaceutical companies and scientists, we have introduced eight medicines across a range of patient populations that have helped transform the efficacy and tolerability of treatment in more simplified regimens. The goal driving our innovation in HIV therapies has been to help patients achieve an undetectable viral load – minimizing HIV levels in the blood. Staying undetectable is key for people with HIV to live long, healthy, and productive lives.

HIV management can be complex and the simplification of treatment regimens provides physicians with new options for their patients. One of the biggest advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS is the development of a single-tablet regimen (STR) or combination pill – one pill that contains several HIV drugs. These once-daily, HIV regimens, have the potential to improve patients’ lives by helping to simplify dosing regimens by reducing pill burden, and which maypotentially help support adherence to treatment.5 Studies show that STR regimens can improve patient satisfaction, virologic outcomes, and adherence to treatment, compared with multi-tablet regimens.6,7,8,9

Non-adherence to treatment remains a challenge for many people living with HIV and one of the main drivers of resistance to HIV medicines. Janssen’s hope is to help make HIV treatment manageable for all by developing innovative solutions like STRs, but also long-acting regimens. Long-acting regimens may offer an effective and acceptable alternative for people who have achieved viral suppression but struggle with daily, oral regimens to control their HIV, with the option to have monthly or bi-monthly injections rather than a daily treatment of up to three drugs.

On top of advancing treatment options, our ultimate goal is to search for a cure. This could take the form of long-term remission from the infection, or full viral eradication. Janssen is conducting early-stage, exploratory research into novel strategies like therapeutic vaccines and immune-based therapies, which may be a potential way forward in ending the need for people living with HIV to take life-long therapy.

The quest for a preventive vaccine

Finding a cure for HIV would be a major breakthrough for people living with HIV but being able to prevent HIV entirely is a top priority if we are to turn the tide of the HIV pandemic.

At Janssen, we are also focused on the development of a safe and effective preventive vaccine to stop the spread of the virus and eradicate HIV as a global health threat. The search for a vaccine against HIV began the moment the virus was discovered over 30 years ago. But due to the unique properties of the retrovirus – including its global genetic diversity and ability to mutate rapidly – finding an effective vaccine has proved to be highly challenging.

Janssen scientists working in a research laboratory in Beerse, BelgiumCredit: Janssen

Together with our global partners, we have initiated the first efficacy study for a ‘mosaic’-based investigational HIV-1 preventive vaccine, evaluating whether the vaccine regimen is safe and able to reduce the incidence of HIV infection among 2,600 women in sub-Saharan Africa. The mosaic-based concept is designed as a ‘global vaccine’, inducing immune responses against a wide variety of viral strains prevalent in different parts of the world that are responsible for the pandemic.

While we are still at an early stage of the testing process and additional large-scale studies will be needed, we are making important progress and are optimistic that the world will find an HIV vaccine in our lifetime, an achievement that could change the future of populations worldwide.

A world unburdened by HIV

The transformation in the treatment of HIV from the start of the epidemic in the ‘80s to today’s ability to treat HIV with a single pill is proof of the remarkable progress that has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Addressing real-world clinical challenges, combatting HIV drug resistance, and meeting the diverse needs of people living with HIV are crucial steps toward a world without HIV. Janssen remains committed to working with our partners around the world to advance innovative treatments, search for a preventive vaccine, and pursue our goal to deliver a cure. Only then will we Make HIV History.

References

  1. World Health Organization. (2017). HIV/AIDS. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs360/en/

  2. UNAIDS. (2017). Fact sheet - Latest statistics on the status of the AIDS epidemic. http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/fact-sheet

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Basic Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/statistics.html

  4. AVERT. (2018). Women and girls, HIV and AIDS. https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/key-affected-populations/women

  5. Astuti, N. et al. Infect Dis Ther. 2014 Jun; 3(1): 1–17

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