BioSyn Obtains Rights to Potential HIV Microbicide

Biotechnology firm BioSyn announced in April that it had acquire exclusive worldwide rights to a potential HIV microbicide from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The compound in question is cyanovirin-N which has been shown to be relatively successful in preventing the spread of AIDS-like diseases in animal models. NIH researchers working with a primate model showed that CV-N prevented transmission of SIV among monkeys.

Dr. Richard Bax, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Biosyn, said in a press release announcing the deal,

CV-N is a member of an exciting new class of HIV drugs termed fusion inhibitors. By preventing HIV entry into and fusion with target cells, CV-N effectively inhibits the virus’ mode of infection. As an intravaginal gel applied prior to intercourse, CV-N could help to avert the sexual transmission of HIV.

Although tests of actual prevention of transmission have so far occurred only in animals, laboratory tests show that CV-N prevents HIV transmission from cell to cell by binding to a protein on the outer shell of the virus and thereby interfering with receptors that HIV uses to target healthy cells.

The NIH conducted studies using a rabbit vaginal toxicity/irritancy model to establish that a gel containing CV-N would be benign (I’d love to see animal rights activists explain how to reproduce that research without using animals), and in vivo tests with human cells suggest it will not attack human immune cells nor important bacteria present in the human vagina.

BioSyn received a $10 million grant from the NIH in November 2002 to develop CV-N through the clinical trial process.


Biosyn, Inc. Obtains Exclusive Rights to Novel HIV Microbicide Candidate from National Institutes of Health. Press Release, BioSyn, April 3, 2003.

Cyanovirin-N Shows Potential to Block HIV Transmission. Reuters Health Information Services, May 8, 2000.

Structural studies of the potent anti-HIV protein cyanovirin-N using NMR and ITC. Carole A. Bewley, National Institutes of Health.

Solution structure of cyanovirin-N, a potent HIV-inactivating protein. Carole A. Bewley, et al., Nature Structural Biology, July 1998, v.5, no. 7, pp.571-578.

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