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Gay Men's Health Crisis
Treatment Briefs: Still Looking for the Real GEM

April 1, 1996
GMHC Treatment Issues 1996 Apr 1; 10(4): 9

A persuasive presentation at the 1993 International Conference on AIDS excited many about GEM 91, the first antisense drug targeted against HIV. Antisense compounds are synthetic segments of nucleic acid that bind to viral genetic material and disrupt the viral life cycle at multiple points. In the lab, GEM 91 blocks HIV when the virus infects new cells, when the cell's machinery is commandeered to produce viral protein, and when complete HIV gene sets are transcribed and packaged in new virions.

Clinical trials reported last September (Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy abstract I86) dampened the excitement. They found that the body breaks down GEM 91 too quickly for it to reach effective concentrations in people. Despite two-week continuous infusions, volunteers received no benefit.

Hybridon, Inc., GEM 91's developer, now has a new concentrated formulation that is administered as a subcutaneous or intramuscular injection. A French phase I study of the improved GEM 91 is scheduled for this month, and an AZT/GEM 91 drug interaction study will begin soon afterwards in Britain.