Protecting against HIV aids
Sexually transmitted infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains a leading threat to women's health and well-being worldwide. Despite global progress against the epidemic, HIV/AIDS remains the primary cause of death among women of reproductive age, and nearly 60% of new infections among adults in sub-Saharan Africa are in women. Young women in that region are three times more likely than young men to become infected with HIV. In the continued absence of an effective vaccine against HIV, researchers across the globe have focused on development of new biomedical strategies to reduce HIV acquisition rates.
Staff in the School of Pharmacy have been at the forefront of global efforts to develop products to protect women against sexually transmitted infection with HIV. Extensive research by Professor Karl Malcolm and Dr Peter Boyd has resulted in the development of a vaginal ring device offering sustained release of the antiretroviral drug dapivirine. This has greatly impacted the direction and technology within the HIV prevention field.
This work has been in collaboration with the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) a US-based non-profit product development partnership established in 2002 (https://www.ipmglobal.org/). Phase 3 clinical trials were successfully completed in 2016, and a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency was announced in July 2020. The ring will be the first woman-centered, long-acting HIV prevention method to reach market in 2022. Successful development of the dapivirine ring has also spurred development of next-generation rings containing combinations of antiretroviral drugs. A dapivirine + maraviroc ring completed Phase 2 clinical testing in 2014. A dapivirine + duranavir ring, a dapivirine+DS003 ring, and a novel dapivirine+5P12-RANTES ring are all currently in preclinical development.
The QUB-IPM partnership are also currently developing multipurpose technology (MPT) vaginal ring products which simultaneously target prevention of HIV and unwanted pregnancy (https://www.ipmglobal.org/our-work/product-pipeline).