Jeffrey Galvin's BioTech Firm May Be on the Verge of Curing HIV/AIDS

Jeffrey Galvin has been a computer nerd since the seventh grade. Way back in the 1970s era of mainframes, he became interested not so much in programming languages or even in circuit boards, but in how the evolving technology would change mankind. When Galvin was in junior high school, emerging computer scientists saw mainframe, room-size computers...
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A 3D RENDERING OF HIV VIRUS IN BLOOD STREAM

Jeffrey Galvin has been a computer nerd since the seventh grade. Way back in the 1970s era of mainframes, he became interested not so much in programming languages or even in circuit boards, but in how the evolving technology would change mankind.

When Galvin was in junior high school, emerging computer scientists saw mainframe, room-size computers as a way to solve mathematical equations and prove theorems. Galvin, on the other hand, started to envision computers as life-changing home appliances.

The story of how this teenage nerd went from dabbling with early computers to being on the verge of curing HIV/AIDS is a tech story that starts in Boston and zig-zags its way through Silicon Valley (naturally) to Hawaii to Medical Center Drive in Rockville where this computer whiz is perhaps on the verge of functionally curing HIV/AIDS.

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Galvin’s journey began in Boston where his father was a graduate of MIT, and for young Jeff that meant access to resources at the school. His computer interest ran wild, and he gobbled up so much knowledge that by the time he was 14, he was teaching a programming class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, after his acceptance, became the youngest teaching fellow ever at Harvard University.

As a freshman at Harvard, he took all the computer classes he could and naturally aced them all before turning to his major in economics. As a sophomore, he kept his hand in computers by teaching Natural Sciences 110, a computer class for non-computer science students, at times lecturing to as many as 1,200 Harvard undergrads.

As his academic career came to a conclusion, he was recruited by Hewlett Packard and moved to Silicon Valley, where exciting things were beginning to happen with technology. After a few years, he took a job with Apple. He was a rising star in Silicon Valley at tech companies that included Apple and a string of his own successful startups.

As his academic career came to a conclusion, he was recruited by Hewlett Packard and moved to Silicon Valley, where exciting things were beginning to happen with technology. After a few years, he took a job with Apple. He was a rising star in Silicon Valley at tech companies that included Apple and a string of his own successful startups.

“So, I thought, OK. That’s it for me. I bought a house in Hawaii and was flying back and forth from Silicon Valley. After about five years, I started feeling bored, so I thought I’d dabble in technology again. Then I met Roscoe Brady.”

By the time Galvin met Dr. Brady, the doctor was in his 70s. He was a highly decorated and commercially successful medical man credited with developing an enzyme replacement technology to extend the life of patients with Gaucher disease, a condition where people can’t metabolize lipids in their organs and the organs swell over time and eventually burst. Brady discovered these patients were missing an enzyme called Glucocerebrosidase, and he figured out a way to produce the enzyme for patients. He out- licensed his biotechnology to Genzyme, which ended up selling $1 billion a year of Brady's treatment.

Over his 50 years as a medical researcher, Brady’s accomplishments can’t be diminished. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders said about Brady: “His work has defined much of what is known about the biochemistry, enzymatic bases, and metabolic defects of these disorders, and he has inspired colleagues throughout the world to define the causes of many other related disorders and to pursue further investigations in this field.”

"I got the most advanced lentiviral vector system on the planet, for free. I hired some post-docs from his lab because I saw a future in this. I thought NIH was about to throw away the most valuable thing I’d ever seen." What Galvin recognized was that Brady’s work was similar to his field of expertise. Essentially, biotechnology researchers like Brady were working on reprogramming human genes, removing the inadequate functions of genes and replacing them with functioning abilities. Galvin related that to computer programming. He saw gene replacement technology as the human body’s programmable hardware and became excited about coming out of retirement himself and diving into the biotech field.

"I got the most advanced lentiviral vector system on the planet, for free. I hired some post-docs from his lab because I saw a future in this. I thought NIH was about to throw away the most valuable thing I’d ever seen." What Galvin recognized was that Brady’s work was similar to his field of expertise. Essentially, biotechnology researchers like Brady were working on reprogramming human genes, removing the inadequate functions of genes and replacing them with functioning abilities. Galvin related that to computer programming. He saw gene replacement technology as the human body’s programmable hardware and became excited about coming out of retirement himself and diving into the biotech field.

This is what happens to an HIV- infected patient. It’s what happened to Timothy Ray Brown, now infamously known as “the Berlin Patient.” Brown, born in Seattle, was diagnosed with the disease in 1995 and used antiretroviral drugs to stave off HIV for more than a decade. Then he was diagnosed with deadly acute myeloid leukemia. Doctors essentially destroyed his immune system and rebuilt it with donated stem cells – but not just any stem cells. They curated the cells from a person immune to HIV.

“Replacing broken or defective genes in inherited diseases is the most obvious use for viral vectors. Now we have an empty stealth bomber that can install any gene,” Galvin says. “We can install new software in your operating system, your DNA. We could essentially put in genes that would make you healthier. If you had a broken gene and were missing an enzyme, we could install a gene that creates that enzyme and is permanent. Now you’re the medicine. Your body makes the thing that you were missing.”

The patient comes in again, receives a dose of a mild cytotoxic drug that clears out some space to infuse the improved T cells. This is necessary because the body’s T cell population has recovered and is full again, so the patient may reject additional T cells due to crowding if the T cell population in the circulatory system is not reduced before an infusion of new T cells. Once the patient’s circulating T cells are reduced, the processed blood is reinfused. In a few weeks, the patient recovers from the infusion, the infused T cells become fully active again, and the patient can theoretically go off the meds and be immune for life, like Timothy Ray Brown.

Source: www.americangene.com