Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill won a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop an implantable drug delivery system for sustained HIV-prevention. The team said it plans to develop an injectable system that steadily releases pre-exposure prophylaxis over long periods of time.
The injectable compound is composed of PrEP, a polymer and a solvent, according to the researchers. Once injected under the skin, the liquid solidifies into an implant that releases drug as the polymer slowly degrades.
The team said it plans to evaluate the efficacy of its formulation using pre-clinical models from UNC.
“This long-acting injectable formulation could provide a discrete and efficient method to protect against HIV infection and improve adherence, which is one of the major challenges of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,” co-principal investigator Rahima Benhabbour said in prepared remarks. “The formulation is adaptable to a number of drugs alone or in combination and can be fine tuned to meet a targeted release regimen.”
“The goal of our study is to develop an injectable polymer-based delivery system for long-acting PrEP that offers durable, sustained protection from HIV transmission, high efficacy of HIV inhibition, increased adherence and the ability to be removed in case of an unanticipated adverse event or when considering discontinuation of this form of PrEP,” co-principal investigator Martina Kovarova added. “If discontinuation of treatment is desired, the implant would be readily removable.”
The team said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will facilitate further testing of the injectable implant in animal models.
“We are excited to be part of the team that is undertaking this important study for HIV prevention,” CDC microbiologist Gerardo Garci-Lerma said.
Ultimately, the researchers aim to produce an injectable implant that will provide 3 months of HIV prevention to patients.
“We’re in the very beginning stages of this project,” Kovarova said. “This novel formulation has outstanding properties, and we are excited to move ahead.”