Czech scientists help treat AIDS in poor countries

HIV virus

A new anti-HIV drug has recently been approved in the United States. One of its two components was developed by Czech scientists, who - as well as the other inventors - have agreed to give up their royalty rights on sales in parts of the world where HIV/AIDS has hit hardest.

In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-HIV drug called Truvada which lowers the amount of HIV in the blood. One of its two parent compounds, Viread, was developed in collaboration between a Czech scientist, Dr Antonin Holy from the Institute for Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry in Prague, and Dr Erik DeClercq from Leuven in Belgium. Dr Holy has already patented a number of drugs for the treatment of AIDS and hepatitis.

"I've been working in the field for about 35 years. I really didn't know anything about viruses when I started. I have never really cared what the drugs are against as long as they work and can be used for treatment. That is the most satisfying thing. Now I can only watch how Viread is doing. It is now being approved by the European Union and I think that by the end of the year, the combined drug should be available to doctors in this country as well."

To ensure the product can reach those most in need the inventors of all the components in Truvada, have agreed to waive their right to royalties on sales in 68 mostly African and Asian countries.

Helena Illnerova is the head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

"I think we will be very interested to watch how the programme is working and whether the African and Asian countries will be taking advantage of it. We'll be interested to find out to what extent it will be possible to treat patients with HIV/AIDS."