HIV as a cure rather than a threat

When Inder Verma, Ph.D., proposed HIV as a vector for gene therapy two years ago, the response was swift. “‘This guy must be nuts,’” Verma said, describing the initial reaction. “‘Why would he put HIV vectors into people?’” But Verma, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, saw that HIV could overcome problems inherent in other viral vectors because it can both elude the immune system and integrate into non-dividing cells such as those in the liver and brain. He has had some success with the HIV vector in animal models. In his talk in November sponsored by the Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, he said he has eliminated the proteins in HIV that make it pathogenic. “We believe it is as safe as we can make it in terms of its ability to cause disease.”