Curing AIDS, The Time Is Now: Gene-Editing Technology May Eliminate HIV


Company harnesses CRISPR-based gene editing technology as it enters human clinical trials to treat HIV.

Excision BioTherapeutics secured $10 million in seed funding to enter human clinical trials using a CRISPR-based gene editing platform to eradicate HIV.

The financing, led by ARTIS Ventures, will give Excision the first chance to remove the HIV-1 genome from all human cells and tissues, according to a press release.

“Excision’s mission has always been to advance gene editing therapeutics into safe and efficacious medicines that will eradicate or disrupt viral genes in human patients,” Thomas Malcolm, PhD, founder, president, and CEO of Excision BioTherapeutics, said in the release. “The support of ARTIS, and other investors, is both timely and critical as we enter the next phase of clinical trials and continue our quest in discovering cure.”

In addition to HIV, the approach is also being used in other viruses by targeting their genetic elements to permanently eliminate them from the patient, according to the release.

HIV affects approximately 37 million individuals worldwide, and 30% are unaware of their status. In the United States alone, nearly 50,000 new infections occur each year.

“HIV is highly mutable and in an atmosphere where patient adherence to daily medications is a challenge, the virus has an opportunity to alter itself and spread,” Malcom said in the release. “Combined with selective pressures, HIV is a ticking time bomb and it is in our best interest to eliminate the virus.”

The company’s technology is based on advanced gene editing techniques that are designed to target and eradicate deadly viruses. According to the release, the protocols are designed using its proprietary ViraSuite technology platform.

“Excision BioTherapeutics is laser-focused on harnessing the power of CRISPR-based gene editing to deliver a cure for the world’s deadliest viruses, and we have been frankly blown away by the pace of their progress,” said Stuart Peterson, senior partner of ARTIS Ventures. “In just three years Thomas and Kamel’s team have positioned the business and science in a manner that has allowed them to meet all the milestones they set out to achieve with regards to an eventual cure for HIV, and other viruses.

“What they’re working on is life-changing, and we’re incredibly impressed with not only the platform they have developed and the speed in which they’ve progressed, but the immense potential of this platform for many deadly and debilitating viruses. They are tackling some of the world’s hardest problems in bioscience and health care and we share their passion. It’s a sold partnership of like-minded values and interests.”

The life science company aims to develop and commercialize advanced gene editing therapeutics to treat and eradicate life-threatening diseases caused by viral infections, the release stated.

“Our goal is to cure AIDS and the time is now,” Kamel Khalili, PhD, founder of Excision BioTherapeutics, said in the release. “We have come a long way from a rudimentary proof of concept to now having evidence of a cure for HIV with animal models. However, what we’re working on is not exclusively focused to the HIV/AIDS virus, but multiple viruses. Our platform will allow us to eradicate permanently the genetic elements of Herpes, Zika, Ebola, Hepatitis, West Nile, and many more viruses. There are virtually no areas that are off limits here.”

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