Dr. Philip Thorpe, Ph.D., lead researcher of the Bavituximab study  reviewed on this website, recently agreed to conduct an interview with The Behavioral Medicine Report. The original review of his research turned out to be a highly accessed article that justified a follow-up interview with Dr. Thorpe. I also wanted to clarify my understanding of Bavituximab and its treatment implications and to better determine if the excitement that surrounds Bavituximab is justified.
I began the interview with a brief overview of my interest in Dr. Thorpe’s anti-viral research. In short, Dr. Roulette Smith’s viral theory of mental and physical health profoundly changed how I conceptualize psychological and developmental disorders. Dr. Smith hypothesizes that the Epstein Bar virus and its mRNA particles cause varying degrees of havoc on the human body that can result in pathological conditions, such as Autism and schizophrenia. If you accept Dr. Smith’s theory, then the next logical step is to identify ways to combat viruses and their virions in an effort to limit the incidence of these sometimes devastating disorders. I reasoned that Dr. Thorpe’s work may be the first step toward a real world effective treatment (i.e., beyond suppression therapy) for these latent viruses.
The following is a summary of my interview of Dr. Thorpe along with a few personal thoughts and comments:
Question: Can you tell me more about Bavituximab?
Dr. Thorpe explained that Bavituximab is an antibody – or more concisely a protein produced by the immune system – that binds to a flipped cellular phospholipid, called phosphatidylserine. He went on to state that when cells are activated or stressed they expose their phosphatidylserine. This occurs on cells that line blood vessels inside tumors and on virally infected cells. Bavituximab binds to the phosphatidylserine and helps the immune system recognize the diseased cells. These actions then trigger an immune system response that clears the virally infected cells and their infectious virions. Dr. Thorpe’s study further demonstrates that the addition of traditional anti-viral drugs further facilitates the removal of these viruses, at least in guinea pigs and mice.
Question: How did you become involved with Bavituximab research?
Dr. Thorpe recalled that his original goal was to develop Bavituximab for the treatment of cancer. Along the way, he realized that it may also be an effective anti-viral drug. At this point, Dr. Thorpe recruited Dr. Melina Soares with whom he collaborated on the Nature Medicine study being discussed today.
Question: In light of the high incidence of latent viral-based diseases, do you think Bavituximab could be the answer to treating these seemingly incurable sicknesses?
Dr. Thorpe explained that viral drug resistance is a huge problem for conventional anti-viral drugs because the viruses rapidly mutate to acquire new properties that render them drug resistant. Bavituximab is a conceptually new drug that works in a way that makes viral drug resistance less likely. Bavituximab acts on the infected host cell itself rather than on the virus. Because the host cell is genetically stable, resistance may not develop. He believes that his Bavituximab study will redirect scientists’ attention on developing other drugs that exploit characteristics of infected host cells and believes this constitutes one of the most important aspects of his research. He also added that Bavituximab is considered a prototype that will be followed up with more refined (e.g. fully human) variants of the drug. Newer versions of Bavituximab are expected to have improved anti-viral activity.
Question: Do all latent viruses trigger exposure of phosphatidylserine?
Dr. Thorpe stated that the active (i.e., viral replication) phase always appears to triggers exposure of phosphatidylserine, but that it is currently unknown whether cells in which the virus has become dormant, or ‘latent’, will continue to have exposed phosphatidylserine.
Question: Regarding your specific study, any idea why you didn’t get a 100% cure rate when combined with anti-viral therapy?
Dr. Thorpe answered that this remains unclear at this point. He added that one possibility is that guinea pigs are not inbred like mice (i.e., increased genetic variability) and that this is area for further study.
Question: Is Bavituximab safe for humans? Could Bavituximab induce an auto-immune disorder? Can it pass the brain-blood-barrier (BBB)?
Dr. Thorpe reported that Bavituximab treatment appears to be well tolerated with few side effects. He also said that there has been no evidence of an autoimmune reaction in the many patients who have received treatment. He said it is not known whether Bavituximab crosses the BBB , but that he would not be surprised if it does not.
Question: Where is Bavituximab with the FDA process? Should Bavituximab be “fast tracked” through the FDA process in light of the millions of people who are sick and dying from viral-based diseases?
Dr. Thorpe described two ongoing phase 1 clinical trials – one with Hepatitis C, and another with Hepatitis C and HIV. In regard to “fast-tracking” the drug, Dr. Thorpe hopes that the FDA will adopt this attitude.
Question: Have you conducted additional Bavituximab studies with any of the viruses mentioned in the Nature Medicine article or with the herpes (oral/genital) and Epstein Bar (EBV) viruses?
Dr. Thorpe reported that Bavituximab has now been tested with HIV in collaboration with Dr. Barton Haynes and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center. He stated that they found that several antibodies which recognize phosphatidylserine can control HIV proliferation in cultured cells and can control multiple clades of HIV – adding that this is a very big finding. Dr. Thorpe further responded that Bavituximab has not been studied with genital or oral herpes or EBV. Also, he said that it is not known whether cells infected with viruses like these which can become latent will continue to have exposed phosphatidylserine. He went on to state that this may not matter because the current thought is that you might be able to deplete the pool of virus during the active phase of infection and if the latent pool of virus can not be replenished then it will die out.
Question: How long until Bavituximab is available for public use? Is this something that will be available in the foreseeable future?
Dr. Thorpe politely declined to discuss time frames.
Wrap Up and Final Thoughts:
Bavituximab certainly appears to be a promising treatment for latent viral-based diseases once thought to be incurable. Obviously, additional human studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of Bavituximab. Dr. Thorpe’s research raises several important personal questions: Assuming that Bavituximab is found safe for humans and knowing that a large percentage of the United State’s population are infected with various latent viruses, should all persons receive a lifetime prescription for Bavituxmab to reduce or eliminate current and future exposure to certain latent viruses? Additionally, similar to a vaccine, can some or all childhood viral-based illnesses be prevented if given Bavituximab early on? Another interesting line of thought involves Dr. Smith’s belief that Autism may begin in the womb due to the mother’s EBV autovirions infecting her unborn child. If this is true, can the incidence of Autism be reduced if all pregnant mothers were placed on a combined Bavituximab and anti-viral drug regimen?
Hopefully future research will answer these important questions. A personal opinion is that Bavituximab and its future derivatives have the potential to profoundly change the course of human disease and suffering. Let us hope that I am correct because the human species has not faired well against latent viruses as evidenced by the high rate of, for example, HIV/AIDS, herpes, and EBV infections.
Dr. Thorpe is truly a gentleman and a scholar, and I thank him for the interview opportunity. Keep up the great work Dr. Thorpe!
 Soares, M., King, S., & Thorpe, P. (2008). Targeting inside-out phosphatidylserine as a therapeutic strategy for viral diseases. Nature Medicine, 14(12), December, 1357-1362.