Merck, Collaborators Publish Study Showing Potential for Eradication of Persistent HIV Virus in the Body


July 25, 2012 4:00 pm ET

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
announced today the publication of a study in the July 26 issue of the
leading scientific journal Nature
that provided early evidence for the use of a drug to dislodge
reservoirs of hidden virus in patients receiving treatment for HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS.

Scientists from Merck Research Laboratories collaborated with
researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill,
the Harvard School of Public Health, National Cancer Institute, and the
University of California at San Diego in the study in a collaboration
initiated last year to identify new ways to purge persistent infection
of HIV from the body.

“We believe that the disruption and clearance of these virus reservoirs
is a critical first step to the daunting challenge of finding a cure for
HIV/AIDS,” said Daria Hazuda, Ph.D., vice president, Merck Research
Laboratories. “We are excited about this pioneering research and remain
hopeful for its potential.”

This is the first published study to show the potential for histone
deacetylase inhibitors to attack latency within dormant virus pools in a
translational clinical study. This research was first presented in March
at the Conference
on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections
in Seattle and more
recently at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

“This work provides compelling evidence to support a strategy to
directly attack and eradicate latent HIV infection,” said David
Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and
epidemiology at UNC at Chapel Hill, who led the study.

The research conducted is part of a UNC-led consortium, the Collaboratory
of AIDS Researchers for Eradication (CARE)
, funded by the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Funding for this research
was provided by Merck, the National Institutes of Health, and the James
B. Pendleton Charitable Trust.

Merck’s history in HIV research and access

Merck has been engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS for more than two
decades. In 1988, Merck researchers were the first to demonstrate that
inhibiting the protease enzyme would prevent replication of HIV; the
following year, Merck scientists published the first crystal structure
for HIV protease. Years later, Merck scientists were the first to
demonstrate inhibition of HIV integrase in vitro and in vivo. Currently
Merck scientists are actively pursuing HIV research against at least
five distinct targets and have several HIV compounds in development.
Since our first HIV medicines became available, Merck has worked to
expand access to these medicines, including through partnerships with

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be
well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.
Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and
consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and
operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health
solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to
healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For
more information, visit
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Ian McConnell, 908-423-3046
Carol Ferguson, 908-423-4465

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