Located in Research Triangle Park, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the foremost public research universities in the world. It's also home to a multitude of experts in HIV basic and clinical research, which is likely to be one of the many reason GlaxoSmithKline is teaming up with UNC to form the HIV CURE Center and establish a new company, Qura Therapeutics. Both will focus all of their energies on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Over the next five years, GSK will invest $4 million per year to fund the overall blueprint for the HIV Cure Center, including coming up with a long-term research plan and financing the relocation of a small team from GSK to Chapel Hill. GSK will also bring its expertise in medicines discovery, development, and manufacturing to the table.
GSKs total $20 million investment over the next five years also supports an HIV/AIDS research approach often referred to as “shock and kill,” where investigators look to “reveal the hidden virus that persists in people with HIV infection despite successful drug therapy, and augment the patient’s immune system to clear these last traces of the virus and infected cells.”
Typically, the majority of GSK's HIV/AIDS-related funding comes out of its offshoot ViiV Healthcare, which was formed in 2009 in conjunction with Pfizer and Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi. Even though ViiV is currently the world's second-largest company, after Gilead Sciences, which works on treatment for HIV, its areas of focus revolve around the discovery of novel ARV therapies. GSK's multi-million-dollar investment in UNC is separate from ViiV, although the company will participate in the new venture in an advisory capacity.
When it comes to big HIV/AIDS research investments from pharmaceutical giants like GSK, there are always some ulterior motives to finding a cure—which, of course, is the main motivator.
Of course, a public-private partnership such as GSK and UNC make sense, since both the company and the school are home to some of the leading HIV/AIDS researchers and scientists in the world. On the other hand, there is the issue of how GSK stands to profit if and when the research conducted by the new partnership proves to be successful.
Regardless, of GSKs corporate motives, the "shock and kill" approach has shown significant promise in early translational research on humans, and accelerating this research has the potential to save millions of lives around the globe.