Univax Biologics Inc. of Rockville will collaborate with one o the nation's largest biotechnology companies to develop a preventive therapy for people who may have been exposed to the AIDS virus as well as for those already infected.
Genentech Inc., a San Francisco company, chose Univax to develop the therapy because of the company's expertise in treatments based on antibodies.
Genentech will give Univax a genetically engineered vaccine now being tested on humans. Univax will innoculate healthy, uninfected volunteers whose bodies are expected to produce antibodies to the AIDS virus. Those antibodies will then be strained from the volunteers' blood and used to manufacture the medicine, called hyperimmune immunoglobulin.
If the therapy looks promising in initial tests on humans, Genentech will work with Univax in more extensive testing.
Initially, said Iris Kersterman,a spokeswoman for Univax, the company hopes the therapy can be used to help prolong the lives of people who have tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus by giving their immune systems an added boost. In addition, it will be tried on pregnant women with the AIDS virus who could pass the virus on to their babies.
If the therapy is developed further, she said, it could prove useful to give to health care workers who are exposed to the AIDS virus through a needle stick or some other accidental way.
Genentech will be responsible for marketing the product and Univax will hold the manufacturing rights. The companies would share revenue from its sale.
Univax said it couldn't provide estimates of the market for such a product, but it said there are 1 million to 4 million HIV-positive patients who might want to use the therapy and 2,000 babies born to HIV-positive mothers in the United States each year.
Univax Biologics is developing a series of products based on antibodies to prevent infectious diseases.