World AIDS Day: Moonshot Startup Solutions
In honour of World AIDS Day, celebrated annually on December 1st, we unite in the fight against HIV to show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those who have passed from an AIDS-related illness.
Honouring World AIDS Day spotlights that HIV is still present and that there is an urgent need to increase awareness, improve education, and fight prejudice worldwide. It is estimated that around 38 million people are living with HIV or AIDS today. As scientific advances continue to develop in understanding the condition and in HIV treatment, we still see a lack of public awareness in knowing how to protect oneself and others, in addition to continued stigma and discrimination for those living with the condition. Even if World AIDS Day may be celebrated once a year, support for people living with HIV needs to be done year round. See how you can get involved here.
As the most patient-centric and solution-oriented innovators, startups have been at the forefront in developing cutting-edge technologies that continue to save lives and support healthcare systems in the fight against HIV and AIDS. In honour of World AIDS Day, we’re spotlighting 3 startups tackling this illness and empowering patients:
What initially kickstarted as an HIV-related artificial intelligence project by two healthtech startups, has led to a breakthrough for sustained treatment, a critical element of controlling the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Through Vantage’s AI-enabled patient retention solution, a team from Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has been able to predict and positively influence the behaviour of high-risk HIV/AIDS patients. This AI-driven model uses data from patient history to predict if patients will miss their next clinic appointment and thereby drop off treatment. Reminders are then automatically sent out to provide personal attention to each patient ahead of their scheduled appointments – ensuring the retention of HIV care and a large step towards eradicating this illness.
AELIX Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biotechnology startup based in Barcelona, Spain, focused on developing a therapeutic HIV vaccine to be used in cure strategies. The startup signed a deal with Gilead, a leader in the HIV drug field, to test a combination of AELIX’s vaccine and Gilead’s HIV drug in a first-in-human clinical trial as an alternative to lifelong therapy. Trials have so far shown a prolonged period without the need for AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART), as the strength of the vaccine-induced T-cell response significantly correlated with prolonged periods off ART. These positive results show that an effective vaccine could become “backbone of combination strategies to achieve complete viral suppression.”
Despite recent advancements in the availability of lifelong ART for HIV and AIDS, universal access to treatment is still a challenge. Current medication aims to prevent viral transmission while helping individual immune systems. The US-based startup Cytodyn is developing Leronlimab (PRO 140), a new class of antiviral agents that protect healthy cells from viral infection. This injection for HIV offers advantages over the current treatments that include no serious side effects and enhanced compliance. Leronlimab is currently awaiting US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, after completing Phase 3 clinical trials.
At Allied for Startups, we continue to witness inspiring startups driving the technological advances in HIV and AIDS care. We will continue advocating for startup-inclusive policy environments to ensure these life-saving innovations can make their impact.