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UNC researchers win grant to develop ultra-long-acting HIV drug

Adherence to taking daily medication at the proper times is important in ensuring HIV is not transmitted to others, clinical trials have found. Researchers at the University of North Carolina were recently awarded a large grant to create an ultra-long-acting antiretroviral drug, the university announced.
UNC School of Medicine investigators and colleagues were awarded $2.91 million over three years by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an ultra-long-acting formulation based on phase inversion implant technology, according to the announcement.

The principal investigator is J. Victor Garcia, a professor of medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“The injectable implant is composed of three main components – an organic water-miscible solvent, a biodegradable polymer, and the drug or drugs that need to be delivered. The formulation results in a syringeable liquid that turns into a solid when injected under the skin and releases drugs steadily over time,” said Rahima Benhabbour, an assistant professor in the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering and lead developer of the ISFI formulation for this project. Benhabbour is a BMES member.
 
“This ultra-long acting ISFI formulation is simple to prepare, has an initial targeting of 180 days of sustained drug release, and will contain an active pharmaceutical ingredient called EFdA, which has potent anti-HIV activity several orders of magnitude higher than currently approved drugs,” said Martina Kovarova, an associate professor of medicine at Carolina and director of the project.

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