With all the pessimism over current treatments that wasevident at the State of the Art conference and in Berlin earlierthis month, several researchers queried by BioWorld professedoptimism about the promise of biotechnology.

"There are lots of short-term possibilities and long-termoptions," Martin Hirsch, a professor in the department ofmedicine at the Harvard Medical School, told BioWorld. "Thingslike protease inhibitors may turn out to be very useful."

"Biotechnology is where I am most optimistic," Robert Schooley,professor of medicine in the infectious disease division of theUniversity of Colorado Health Sciences Center, told BioWorld. Hementioned ribozymes as one interesting strategy.

Any treatments are several years away, while researcherswork on problems such as delivery systems, plus issues thatpertain to small molecule viral variability. But the researchwould be relevant to genetic diseases as well.

Members of the community of People with AIDS (PWA) alsoare looking to biotechnology for answers. "We have taken moreof a look at biotechnology companies than some of the otherpatient groups," Robert Darga of the National Association ofPWA told BioWorld.

"Some of the monoclonal antibody anti-idiotype approaches areinteresting," Darga told BioWorld. He called Viagene Inc.'simmunotherapeutic, approved by the National Institutes ofHealth's DNA Advisory Committee earlier this month (seeBioWorld, June 8) "an exciting prospect because one messagefrom Berlin is that we need to restore the balance betweencellular and humoral immunity."

He added, "We have spent some time visiting the West Coastcompanies -- Viagene, Idec, Applied Immune Sciences,Genelabs and Amgen -- and I am impressed how with limitedresources they have gone out on a limb with some of their HIVtherapies."

"We have offered (biotechnology companies) the opportunity todistribute information about their potential and futureproducts," Darga told BioWorld. "We try to present it so that itisn't seen as a sales pitch, but as information about the value ofthe products."

Darga's group also provides companies with information aboutthe PWA community "as they get ready for trials. If theyhaven't worked with the community, they need to know howstrongly we feel about access for women and for people ofcolor. Some of these companies may not be aware that if theydesign a protocol that excludes people, they may drawattention that the don't necessarily want." -- David C. Holzman

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.