The human immunodeficiency virus has proved to be a formidable foe. Just as researchers find a way to slow disease progression, viral resistance develops. And as the percentage of cases of drug-resistant HIV infection rises, the need for not just a new drug, but a new drug strategy, intensifies.
Three Rensselaer alumni are leading the race to find a new pharmaceutical weapon against HIV. They have contributed to the development of a compound called T-20 and a similar second new drug that intercept HIV before it enters the cell, unlike existing drugs that cripple the virus from within the infected cell. Little did Rensselaer graduates Dani Bolognesi 63, Jesse Treu 68, and Jeff Lipton 63 imagine during their college days that they would decades later wed their scientific expertise and business acumen to fight a killer virus.
The new drugs are the first of a new class called fusion inhibitors, which are being developed at the Durham, N.C.-based Trimeris Corp. Bolognesi, one of the companys founders, today is its chief executive officer; Treu led the initial financing effort and was chairman of the board for six years before turning the reins over to Lipton, who now serves as the companys chairman.
The development of T-20 is a story of Rensselaer alumni making a differenceand offering hope to millions infected with HIV.