Magazine article Drug Topics

Roche Mounts Three-Pronged Attack on AIDS Virus

Magazine article Drug Topics

Roche Mounts Three-Pronged Attack on AIDS Virus

Article excerpt

Like AIDS researdchers all over the world, scientists at Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. are searching for a way to stop the deadly AIDS virus from spawning in the bodies of infected individuals. At present, the company has identified three potential strategies for sabotaging HIV's merciless ability to replicate.

"We have been quite fortunate in being able to identify three clinical candidates in AIDS," Paul Oestreicher, the company's assistant director of public policy and communications, told Drug Topics. The three target different points in the viral reproduction cycle.

The compound that is farthest along, dideoxycytidine or ddC, is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor like Burroughs Wellcome Co.'s Retrovir (zidovudine or AZT). Roche is now in the process of compiling a New Drug Application based on an interim analysis of ongoing trials, Oestreicher said.

A second drug candidate, now referred to as Ro 31-8959, "stops an enzyme called protease that is responsible for packaging the viral proteins properly to make a mature virus," he explained. The agent is in early clinical trials in the United Kingdom.

The third agent, which is only in the very preliminary stages of clinical study, made news recently when Roche called a temporary halt to human trials. Called Ro 24-7429, the novel compound is a "TAT antagonist." TAT, Oestreicher went on to explain, is a protein-producing gene in HIV. Ro 24-7429 antagonizes the action of that protein in still a different step in the replication cycle.

Roche had just completed a phase I single-dose pharmacokinetic study of the experimental compound in a "handful of people" when the company stalled further work. The holding pattern, which was in effect for a few weeks, was the result of a decision to aggressively seek a licensing partner for the drug, Oestreicher said. He added that "we wanted to give the potential partner an opportunity to offer input into the design of any future study. …

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