New NIAID grant to support development of topical microbicide gel for HIV and HSV-2 infections

A new grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) will support the development of a topical microbicide gel for drug delivery. The innovative gel formulation will be a combination therapy against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infections in women.

Every day, more than 3,000 women around the world are newly infected with HIV, and it is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 33.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS across the world, 22.5 million are in Africa. HSV-2 is a global epidemic and affects up to 80 percent of the female population in Africa.

As part of the grant, SRI International researchers will develop and test a prototype bioadhesive formulation for sustained delivery of the antiviral drugs tenofovir and acyclovir to the vaginal surface. Because chronic HSV-2 infections have been shown to speed the progression of immunodeficiency disease, researchers are focused on developing a microbicide that prevents both HIV and HSV-2 infections.

"The inexpensive and easy-to-use combination therapy in development could help contain the spread of HIV and HSV, and possibly other sexually transmitted diseases," said Gita Shankar, Ph.D., director of Formulations R&D, SRI Biosciences. "One of the strongest benefits of a topical gel formula is that it can offer protection when options such as condoms are unavailable or unacceptable."

The awarded grant is for two years with a possible extension of three additional years. Development work will focus on creating a combination therapy that will limit the risk of drug resistance, while providing women with safe and sustained drug delivery. The novel product will be based on a patented bioadhesive polymeric platform developed at SRI.

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