DART protein molecule shows promise against HIV

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A molecule recently developed by Duke Medicine, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and MacroGenics, Inc., referred to as DART, has proven to have the ability to bind HIV-infected cells to the immune system’s killer T-cells. DART stands for Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting protein and is a type of bi-specific antibody.

Bi-specific molecules previously have been used extensively in cancer research to help the immune system identify and clear tumor cells. DART unites HIV-infected cells and killer T-cells, causing a union that kills HIV-infected cells.

Dr. Julia Sung, lead author and clinical assistant professor of medicine at UNC, had positive results when she used DART molecules and agents to wake up latent reservoirs of the virus hiding in the body.

“This is an exciting approach that has the potential to clear a pool of cells that are so hard to get rid of -- virus that lies silent and hidden in the host,” Dr. Barton Haynes, director of the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and a senior author of a study describing the molecule in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. “These drugs would be combined with other drugs that activate expression of HIV in the cells. As soon as they are awakened, the DART molecules hit them and cause the killer T cells to destroy the virus.”

“This is a great opportunity for MacroGenics to expand our DART platform for therapeutics applications beyond oncology and autoimmune disorders, and into infectious diseases,” Dr. Scott Koenig, president and CEO of MacroGenics, said. “We are encouraged by our proof-of-concept studies that show HIV DART molecules to be potent immunotherapeutic agents with the potential to reduce HIV reservoirs in patients.”

MacroGenics utilizes next-generation, antibody-based technologies, including DART, to discover, develop and produce antibodies that can be used to target a wide variety of infectious diseases.

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Duke University

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