Johnson & Johnson has linked up with ViiV Healthcare, the HIV company owned by GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shionogi, to develop a combination treatment for the disease.

The agreement, ViiV’s first external collaboration, is looking at a single tablet that combines the latter’s recently-launched Tivicay (dolutegravir) with J&J’s non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor Edurant (rilpivirine). Studies are expected to begin by the first quarter of 2015 and will investigate the combo as an HIV maintenance therapy for patients already virally suppressed on a three-drug regimen.

John Pottage, ViiV’s chief medical officer, said that “new options that advance current therapies are increasingly important as patients and clinicians consider HIV care over the long term”. The partners will be hoping that the combo will provide competition to Gilead Sciences’ blockbuster Atripla (efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir).