UNC awarded $2.91 million to create new ultra-long-acting HIV drug delivery implant

December 2, 2019

Doctoral students Katie Mollan, MS and Bonnie Shook-Sa, MAS, along with Michael Hudgens, PhD, professor of biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, are part of an investigative team that recently received a $2.91 million award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create an ultra-long-acting implant for HIV drug delivery.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an effective way for those at high risk of contracting HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking daily antiretroviral medication. Research has shown that the efficacy of PrEP is directly correlated to how consistently a person adheres to the medication regimen. PrEP, if adhered to, can have a significant impact on decreasing the spread of HIV.

Katie Mollan

Katie Mollan

Bonnie Shook-Sa

Bonnie Shook-Sa

The principal investigator is J. Victor Garcia, PhD, professor of medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) biostatisticians Mollan and Shook-Sa will provide statistical expertise and guidance for this study, with mentorship from Hudgens.

“We are excited that the Gates Foundation has seen the great potential of ultra-long-acting PrEP formulations and has awarded our multidisciplinary team of researchers funding to further test an ultra-long-acting drug delivery system,” said Garcia, who is a member of the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and Director of the International Center for the Advancement of Translational Science.

Dr. Michael Hudgens

Dr. Michael Hudgens

“We look forward to collaborating on this important translational work in ultra-long-acting steady release drug delivery for prevention of HIV transmission,” said Mollan. “The injectable implant technology holds great promise, and this study will be an exemplary cross-disciplinary collaboration between experts in biomedical engineering, radiology, pharmacology, global health, infectious diseases and public health.”

The initial target for the treatment is 180 days of sustained release, which would make this drug delivery system among the first treatments to target such a long-acting release. The active ingredient, EFdA, has a potency much higher than other antiretroviral medications currently available on the market. And because PrEP has already been shown to be effective as long as it’s taken as directed, this ultra-long-acting drug delivery system could be the first step at tackling the implementation science behind the reduction of HIV transmission.

“Until we have a vaccine for HIV, PrEP is seen as one of our best bets at prevention,” said Hudgens.


Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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