The International AIDS Conference starts up in less than a week in Vienna, Austria. ScienceSpeaks is gathering thoughts from leaders in the field HIV/AIDS treatment, research and advocacy in the question and answer series “Looking toward Vienna.”
Daniel R. Kuritzkes, MD, is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Head Director of the AIDS Research section of Retroviral Therapeutics at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Kuritzkes also serves as Vice Chair of the Executive Committee of the Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) and is the Director and Principal Investigator of the Harvard Adult AIDS Clinical Trials Unit.
What are your expectations for the conference?
I hope that the conference will be another opportunity for networking and for inter-disciplinary discussion, particularly for people that have been developing therapeutics and those charged with rolling out ART in developing countries where there is high demand for these medicines.
I’m looking forward to dialogue about the intersection of therapeutics and prevention. The results of the first PrEP trials will be fostering much discussion, with the presentation of the CAPRISA trial results.
Any sessions you are particularly looking forward to?
President Clinton is going to be speaking again on Monday and that’s always interesting and exciting. Also, the sessions on therapeutics and drug resistance are a particular interest of mine. The discussions on the intersection of therapeutics and prevention, and discussions of the ongoing roll-out of HIV treatment in developing countries, are what this meeting especially helps to foster.
I do expect to hear news about novel antiretroviral regimens, HIV drug resistance, the role of immune activation in disease pathogenesis, HIV prevention, and of course HIV and TB.
The pivotal trial for rilpivirine (TMC278) will also be presented. This drug potentially provides an alternative to efavirenz (EFV), lacking the CNS toxicity and the teratogenicity of EFV. In addition, the AIDS Clinical Trials Group will be presenting data on bone effects of NNRTI- and PI-based regimens. Lastly, before the actual conference gets underway there is an IAS-sponsored workshop dealing with viral persistence and eradication (Friday-Saturday) that I will be attending.
Are you aware of any new research in Vienna being released on HIV drugs?
There are two studies being presented on raltegravir-based regimens, in treatment-naïve patients with HIV-1 infection. There will also be presentations on Nucleoside-sparing regimens with interesting results that may have some implications as to what is happening regarding minority variance and high virus load.
What does this meeting mean from the perspective of scientists/investigators?
I think that there is a real issue about how effectively you can communicate and discuss scientific results, especially in the basic science area, at a meeting of 15 to 20 thousand people. The opportunities for serious discussion are both minimized and overrun by participants. That’s why meetings like the various workshops, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) or the Keystone symposia are still so valuable.
Nevertheless, the companion IAS conference to this meeting—on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention has become an important scientific venue and there will undoubtedly be some important findings released at the Vienna meeting. As for the science specifically, a lot of this depends on timing; when a trial ends and when you can release your results and how that coincides with the next major conference in the field. A lot of this has to do with serendipity and the timing of events which people don’t have much control over.