Most widely used HIV medicine worldwide

HIV medication lowers HIV-levels in the blood, making the infection no longer lethal.

Leuven has a long tradition of developing innovative and effective medications. One such medication is the antiviral agent tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, discovered in 1993 by professor Erik De Clercq and Professor Jan Balzarini of the KU Leuven Rega Institute for Medical Research, in collaboration with Professor Antonin Holý of the IOCB in Prague and Dr. John Martin of Gilead Sciences.

Tenofovir was licensed to the American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, which further developed it and now produces and distributes the drug under the trade name Viread® in exchange for royalty payments to KU Leuven. Tenofovir has become the most commonly used anti-HIV drug in the world. Drugs containing tenofovir are effective at reducing the HIV-titre in the blood, stopping the infection from being lethal. HIV-infected patients treated with these medications can manage the disease for many years.

The discovery of the phosphonates, the class of compounds to which tenofovir belongs, has also contributed to the creation of the KU Leuven spin-off company Okapi Sciences, which specialises in the development of drugs for the treatment or prevention of viral infections in animals, such as swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease. In 2014, Okapi Sciences was acquired by Aratana Therapeutics.