Chiron reverses course, will continue to fund AIDS study

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 17 2003 1:00 AM ET

Pharmaceutical company Chiron on Tuesday reversed a decision announced three months ago that the company would stop funding a study concerning the use of the anticancer drug interleukin-2 to help boost the immune systems of HIV-positive people, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The company began funding the study, conducted at the National Institutes of Health, in 1999 but announced in October that it was pulling financial support because the research was too costly.

Company officials say the six-year study had already cost $60 million and that another $100 million is needed to complete it. "We did not anticipate the amount of support this trial had in the HIV scientific community," said Chiron president Craig Wheeler in announcing that funding would continue. However, the company did not announce whether it would fully fund the research, and analysts expect Chiron's annual contributions to be less than half of what was originally planned for, leaving researchers responsible for raising the rest of the needed funds.

The research hopes to determine whether interleukin-2 can be used as an effective means to boost the immune system in attacking HIV in the body, which would help HIV-positive people maintain low viral levels and help them from ever progressing to an AIDS diagnosis. Nearly 2,000 people are currently enrolled in the study.