A research priority in finding a cure for HIV is to establish methods to accurately locate and quantify where and how HIV persists in people living with HIV (PLWH) receiving suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). Infusing copper-64 (Cu) radiolabelled broadly neutralising antibodies targeting HIV envelope (Env) with CT scan and positron emission tomography (PET) identified HIV Env in tissues in SIV infected non-human primates . We aimed to determine if a similar approach was effective in people living with HIV (PLWH).
Unmodified 3BNC117 was compared with 3BNC117 bound to the chelator MeCOSar and Cu (Cu-3BNC117) in vitro to assess binding and neutralization. In a clinical trial Cu-3BNC117 was infused into HIV uninfected (Group 1), HIV infected and viremic (viral load, VL >1000 c/mL; Group 2) and HIV infected aviremic (VL <20 c/mL; Group 3) participants using two dosing strategies: high protein (3mg/kg unlabeled 3BNC117 combined with <5mg Cu-3BNC117) and trace (<5mg Cu-3BNC117 only). All participants were screened for 3BNC117 sensitivity from virus obtained from viral outgrowth. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/PET and pharmacokinetic assessments (ELISA for serum 3BNC117 concentrations and gamma counting for Cu) were performed 1, 24- and 48-hours post dosing. The trial (clincialtrials.gov NCT03063788) primary endpoint was comparison of PET standard uptake values (SUVs) in regions of interest (e.g lymph node groups and gastrointestinal tract).
Comparison of unmodified and modified 3BNC117 in vitro demonstrated no difference in HIV binding or neutralisation. 17 individuals were enrolled of which 12 were dosed including Group 1 (n=4, 2 high protein, 2 trace dose), Group 2 (n=6, 2 high protein, 4 trace) and Group 3 (n=2, trace only). HIV+ participants had a mean CD4 of 574 cells/microL and mean age 43 years. There were no drug related adverse effects and no differences in tissue uptake in regions of interest (e.g lymph node gut, pharynx) between the 3 groups. In the high protein dosing group, serum concentrations of 3BNC117 and gamma counts were highly correlated demonstrating that Cu-3BNC117 remained intact in vivo.
In PLWH on or off ART, the intervention of infusing Cu-3BNC117 and MRI/PET imaging over 48 hours, was unable to detect HIV-1 env expression in vivo. Future studies should investigate alternative radiolabels such as zirconium which have a longer half-life in vivo.
Funded by the Alfred Foundation, The Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research with additional support from the Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, US National Institutes of Health (U19AI096109). JHM and SRL are supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council.

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