The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has puzzled scientist around the world for decades. Since its discovery in the early 80's the virus has caused one of the worst pandemics the world has seen in modern times. The World Trade Center in Malmö Sweden is home to Cavidi AB, a biomedical company with a mission to contribute to the containment of the spread of this insidious virus and associated disease known as HIV/AIDS.
We can contain HIV/AIDS. We have the global policy and increasingly more effective drugs, but broad access to viral load monitoring is one of the main missing links in the containment chain. Cavidi has a novel technology for HIV viral load monitoring that can operate in more challenging environments typical of Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia where access to the test is limited due to logistical and infrastructural constrains.
According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
"People who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV- negative partner. Virally suppressed people have “effectively no risk” of transmitting HIV." (September, 2017)
Sexual transmission of HIV can be contained when patients infected with the virus do not pass the virus on to their partners because their viral load is low enough that they are no longer infectious. Measuring viral load is what Cavidi does with its proprietary diagnostic tests.
"We have a technology that, when scaled, can help to contain the HIV pandemic for millions of patients in low income countries who today do not have access to this test. This is one of the missing links in the HIV containment chain which can prevent the spread of the epidemic, and allow those infected with the virus to live a productive and healthy life with a life
expectancy similar to non-infected populations." says John Reisky de Dubnic, CEO of Cavidi. "HIV is a life sentence but no longer a death sentence and containment of the virus is now achievable. This is welcome news for patients, their doctors, and the global population at large."
Cavidi’s head office is in Uppsala where all R&D is carried out says John who is American and has his base in World Trade Center Malmö since 2010. “From a business perspective it is better that I’m in Malmö. My main work tasks are carried out in countries far from Sweden, which makes me dependent on good logistics. In 20 minutes I can be at Copenhagen airport and take a direct flight to Africa, Asia or the USA, where we have most of our strategic partners.”
In general terms Cavidi is working in making HIV viral load monitoring more accessible. Since Cavidi was founded the company has succeeded in getting closer to the HIV-infected population in the parts of the world that are most affected – that is to say a large part of the developing world. This is being done by taking the lab process out into the field, close to the millions of people who live with HIV. In these areas there is usually a lack of adequate infrastructure and reliable cold-chain.
Cavidi’s work is in many ways groundbreaking. Compared to Western countries where HIV patients are routinely tested five times a year to check viral load levels, this test not carried out as often as needed in the worst affected areas. Cavidi provides an instrument that works in resource- limited settings. Given the limited resources of these countries, viral load testing facilities are restricted to a few large, central labs that are out of reach of most people who need the test. Cavidi’s technology enables accurate testing away from such central facilities, reaching patients that would otherwise have no or very limited access to the test.
"We hope for a vaccine, but in reality this is probably decades away – if that ever happens. But with today’s medicines and with regular diagnostics and follow-up people living with HIV can
lead normal lives. We can now see that more of the 35 million people living with HIV get access to good monitoring” says John.
John’s, Cavidi’s and Sweden’s work in HIV research has not passed unnoticed.
– "I had the great honor of representing Sweden and Cavidi at Cavendish Global Health Forum at the UN in New York, which it turned out, was important for financing our continued development. Cavidi’s and Sweden’s commitment to countering the HIV epidemic has
now attracted considerable attention which led to us establishing many new and important investor contacts during the conference."
John has the world as his field of work and he carries a lot of responsibility, but he says he enjoys the toughest challenges. Maybe it is his humble personality and that he seems to have both feet on the ground that helps him to cope with his hectic work life. Or maybe it is just an uncomplicated view of life in general?
“If I need to think or get out of the office for a while I take my skateboard and skate in the local park”, says John and points at the skateboard leaning against his office wall. “It clears my mind and helps me to focus on what matters.”