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South Africa Approves Hemishpherx Interferon Study

Monday Jul 21, 2014

Hemispherx Biopharma, Inc. has announced execution of an agreement to seek South African government approval to initiate a study of Alferon® N, the only FDA approved natural interferon, in the suppression of HIV Type 1 replication and the reduction/elimination of functional cell-associated HIV DNA integration (latent HIV). The study is contemplated as part of a broad strategic alliance with Bioclones (Pty) Ltd., a leading South African biotechnology company.

"From a global perspective Bioclones will be able to provide an African context for the use of both Alferon® in the fight against the HIV AIDS virus for the first time in South Africa and both our companies are committed to advancing the cause against the spread of the HIV AIDS virus and make a difference in the lives of all that are affected by the disease," said Ismet Amod, CEO of Bioclones.

At the Wistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania, a recent clinical study was conducted to test the effect of Interferon Alfa-2a in the suppression and/or eradication of HIV (Pegylated Interferon Alfa-2a Monotherapy Results in Suppression of HIV Type I Replication and Decreased Cell-Associated HIV DNA Integration; Azzoni, et al. J Infect Dis, 207:213-222, 2013).

This pilot study yielded an exciting conclusion: alpha interferon resulted in control of HIV replication in 45 percent of patients following cessation of anti-retroviral therapy. Decreased levels of latent HIV (chromosomal integrated HIV provirus responsible for chronic infection non-responsive to current approved anti-retroviral drugs) occurred in patients in which HIV replication was suppressed by anti-retroviral drugs, supporting a role for immune-mediated approaches in HIV suppression and potential eradication of latent virus required for cure. Hemispherx' flagship products, Alferon® N and Ampligen® (experimental) are both potentially key players in successful long-term immune-mediated therapy.

Hemispherx' product, Alferon® N, is a natural interferon that has certain apparent advantages over recombinant (synthetic) interferons. First, unlike synthetic alpha interferons which typically are single species, Alferon® N is a multi-species alpha interferon. In a side-by-side clinical comparison, it has a superior safety profile relative to a commercially available synthetic interferon and can be successfully used in the treatment of certain refractory patients.

In some studies, Alferon® N produces more antiviral control and less neutralizing antibody formation compared to synthetic interferons. It is the only natural source alpha interferon product currently approved by the FDA in the U.S. Alferon® N is also approved for sale in Argentina for an unrestricted indication of patients that fail or become intolerant to treatment with recombinant interferons.

Hemispherx and Bioclones will co-sponsor the clinical study of the safety and biological effects, including clinical, immunologic, and virologic assessments, of adding Alferon® N to a strategic therapeutic intervention protocol in 30 South African patients with HIV. Bioclones, a global partner to Hemispherx, will serve as the Company's South African representative and will organize the trials to take place in South Africa.

In the Wistar article, Interferon Alfa-2a immunotherapy resulted in control of HIV replication and decreased levels of HIV-1 integrated provirus, supporting a role for immune-mediated approaches in HIV suppression and/or eradication. The objective of the Bioclones/Hemispherx program is to build on the Wistar results by increasing the complete response rate.

"Hemispherx is pleased to co-sponsor upcoming clinical trials in South Africa using Alferon® N in the treatment of patients with HIV," said Thomas Equels, Executive Vice Chairman of Hemispherx. "Together with Bioclones, we look forward to seeking authority from the South African government to commence the trials as soon as possible. Both of our companies are ready to bring our talents to the global fight to eradicate AIDS."

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