With 2 million new HIV infections reported every year across the world and Indian companies supplying 66 per cent of antiretroviral drugs, the country is key to the global fightback against AIDS, Dr Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), said on Monday.
Feinberg, currently on a visit to India, did not hazard a deadline for an AIDS vaccine but said work on it has improved understanding of the immune system and spawned many technologies that can help fight other diseases, including emerging threats such as Ebola and Zika.
A nonprofit scientific research organisation seeking to address urgent, unmet global health challenges — including HIV and tuberculosis — IAVI has several technology and innovation partnerships with the Department of Biotechnology.
“Making low-cost, high-quality antiretroviral drugs available is key to the global AIDS fightback. That is why Indian pharmaceutical companies, with their ability to manufacture high-quality, affordable medicines are key,” Feinberg told The Indian Express.
With neither a vaccine nor any cure in sight, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the only option available for people living with HIV-AIDS. According to the World Health Organization, standard ART consists of a combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of the disease.
Why India is crucial in battle against the virus
There are 2 million new AIDS infections every year, and about 66 per cent of the world population currently on antiretroviral therapy consumes drugs manufactured in India. Globally, the ART market is valued at $24.48 billion (in 2018) and is expected to reach $33.83 billion by 2025. Indian pharmaceutical companies, with their ability to manufacture high-quality, affordable medicines are very important in this global battle, according to the chief of International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
Significant reductions have been seen in rates of death and suffering by the use of a potent ART regimen, particularly in the early stages of the disease.
There are two trials currently under way for a possible AIDS vaccine but neither has yet reached a stage when a date can be put to the availability of the vaccine, Feinberg said.
However, among technologies that have developed as a byproduct of the quest for the vaccine, IAVI, Feinberg said, is excited about monoclonal antibodies — antibodies raised artificially to target one specific type of pathogen — and can be the key to countering emerging infections.
“Monoclonal antibodies are critically important and could be the future of tackling diseases such as cancer, or even something like snakebite,” Feinberg said.
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