Achillion and UMBC collaboration identifies new class of agents with potential to treat HIV

Baltimore, MD and New Haven, CT, April 1, 2003 In a successful partnership between industry and academia, researchers from The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Achillion Pharmaceuticals today announced the discovery of a new target on the HIV molecule that could potentially lead to a new class of anti-viral drugs to fight the virus that causes AIDS. The study, headed by Dr. Michael Summers, UMBC professor of chemistry/biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, is featured on the cover of this week's Journal of Molecular Biology.

"The greatest challenge in treating HIV today is drug resistance brought on when the virus mutates and renders existing drugs ineffective at stopping viral replication," said Dr. Summers. "Our research has led to the identification of a new class of compounds that inhibit a novel target in HIV. These compounds disrupt the assembly of the HIV-1 capsid protein, which is a vital step in changing immature, non-infectious HIV into its mature, infectious form."

"Investigators around the world have been looking at the HIV-1 capsid protein as a potential drug target for more than a decade, and we are therefore particularly pleased to finally have solid leads to guide these efforts," said William G. Rice, Ph.D., Achillion's CEO. "While we are encouraged by the laboratory tests of the compounds we've identified so far, additional testing needs to be undertaken before this approach can be tested in humans."

Dr. Summers and his team identified the target at the UMBC HHMI Lab and discovered a number of compounds that bound to a specific area of the capsid protein thought to play a key role in the assembly process necessary for HIV to mature to its infectious form. The identification process leveraged the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology resources and target validation expertise at Summers' HHMI laboratory.

Once the new capsid assembly target and compounds inhibitin

Contact: Amy Enders
Achillion Pharmaceuticals

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