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Development and Testing of a Combined Anti-Retroviral, Immune, and Gene Therapy for Treatment of HIV Patients
Framework programme:
Project number:
EC contribution:
€ 1 469 718
36 months
Starting date:
1 October 2000

Keywords: HIV treatment; gene therapy; immune therapy; T-helper cells; HAART; AIDS


The overall aim of this project is to develop a new strategy for the treatment of HIV patients, based on a combination of gene therapy and immune therapy as a supplement or possible alternative for the anti-retroviral therapies currently being used.


The treatment of HIV patients has been greatly improved by the development of HAART. However, despite a strong reduction in the number of virus producing cells, HAART does not fully eradicate the virus, making sustained treatment necessary. In addition, immune function is only partly restored during HAART. Therefore, the focus has recently shifted to supplementing HAART with additional immune therapy. Although the most direct immune therapy approach would be to vaccinate HIV-infected individuals, recent data obtained in humans, as well as in SIV-infected rhesus macaques, indicated that only limited responses can be achieved. Possibly this is because the immune system has not yet fully recovered at the time of immunisation. Alternatively, the activation of CD4 T-cells from the vaccination may increase their susceptibility to HIV infection, which, even in the presence of anti-retroviral therapy, could lead to clonal deletion instead of immune activation.


The objective of this project is to systematically develop and test a novel approach for treating HIV patients, by using antigen-specific CD4 T-cells, amplified and genetically modified by retroviral transduction in vitro, in order to confer to them HIV resistance. Transfer of these cells, in combination with anti-retroviral drug therapy and vaccination strategies, will be used to boost the patient’s immune responses directed against HIV and common micro-organisms responsible for opportunistic infections.

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