Possibility of an AIDS cure revs up Big Pharma R&D teams

Investigators have spent decades learning how to track down and eliminate signs of HIV, one of the most devilishly elusive viruses known to man. No matter what scientists threw at HIV, it remained hidden in some cells, threatening to break out and kill its host if the patient ever stopped taking a regimen of therapies. Now Bloomberg reports that leading scientists believe that new advances in the field are making it possible to believe that a cure--the complete eradication of HIV in patients--is possible.

Merck ($MRK) and scientists at the University of North Carolina helped enthuse researchers with the news that a dose of the cancer drug Zolinza activated hidden infected cells in 8 patients. That news raises the prospect that someday all infected cells can be identified and exterminated, offering a cure for millions of people with HIV.

"If we ever have a cure for AIDS, a big part of it will be this type of strategy," UCSF professor Steven Deeks tells Bloomberg. "It's all about getting the virus out of the hiding place and coming up with a way to kill it."

Merck, which has had some dramatic setbacks in the field, isn't alone. Gilead ($GILD) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have also mounted new efforts at a cure as AIDS once again becomes one of the hottest sectors of pharma R&D.

- here's the article from Bloomberg