NEW YORK, N.Y. — Research Foundation to Cure AIDS (RFTCA) has obtained a worldwide license to biotechnology known as Chromovert Technology, to research, develop and commercialize a cure for HIV/AIDS. This is the first and only case of an IRS Code § 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization holding rights to biotechnology with the promise to cure AIDS. RFTCA’s mission is to develop an AIDS cure and to make it available and affordable to all of the 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide.
The emphasis in the medical community, until recently, has been on containing the AIDS epidemic with treatment and prevention alone. But recent advances in stem cell biology and cellular engineering have created new opportunities that could lead to a global cure.
Recently, the first two patients in history were cured of AIDS. In 2007, Dr. Gero Hutter at Charite ́ University Medicine Berlin, Germany, first tested whether naturally HIV-resistant stem cells could cure AIDS. Dr. Hutter performed a standard stem cell transplant to treat his patient’s cancer but using stem cells specifically obtained from a rare, naturally HIV-resistant donor individual. Twelve years later, in 2019, Dr. Ravindra Gupta, at University College in London, England, performed a similar treatment also using naturally HIV-resistant stem cells to treat a second patient having both cancer and AIDS. The HIV-resistant stem cells cured both patients of AIDS as well as cancer, alerting the medical community that a cure for AIDS is reproducible.
Scientists are currently researching cell engineering methods to develop a safe and scalable AIDS cure, which, in the case of patients who do not suffer from cancer, eliminates most of the risks, costs and complications that the first two patients faced. What is needed is a method to create HIV-resistant stem cells for each patient using their own stem cells, as opposed to using curative stem cells obtained from rare, naturally HIV-resistant donor individuals.
Multiple proprietary cell engineering technologies pioneered by different biotechnology companies, including Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) and Zinc-Finger Nucleases (ZFNs) are currently being pursued to create a safe and scalable cure. As reported by The New York Times (Apoorva Mandavilli, “An H.I.V. Cure: Answers to 4 Key Questions,” March 5, 2019), however, “so far the numbers of cells derived with these methods do not seem to be enough to make anyone resistant to HIV.” Chromovert Technology is a biotechnology that enables the detection and purification of even exceedingly rare desired cells, providing an opportunity to purify sufficient numbers of cells. Chromovert was invented at The Rockefeller University by RFTCA President Dr. Kambiz Shekdar and is owned by Chromocell Corporation. Dr. Shekdar co-founded Chromocell in 2002 with Dr. Gunter Blobel, also of The Rockefeller University, and Mr. Christian Kopfli, Chromocell’s CEO. The company decided to pursue its potential to cure AIDS with a strong degree of corporate social responsibility. The same individuals served as members of the founding board of directors of RFTCA in order to realize this charitable intent.
“The first known cure of a patient with AIDS made me realize that a technology I had developed might one day yield a safe and scalable cure. But to develop a truly global and socially responsible cure, we need to establish the best charitable use of our technology and leverage it to shake complacency, give hope, and raise the funds needed to end AIDS, worldwide,” Dr. Shekdar explained.
RFTCA paid Chromocell $1 for a perpetual worldwide license to all of Chromocell’s technology, including Chromovert Technology, to research, develop and commercialize a cure for AIDS. The license effectively allows RFTCA to be the first charitable biotechnology venture seeking to cure AIDS worldwide.