August 18, 2004
Arizona State University won a $7.4 million grant to research medications to halt HIV and ultimately the spread of AIDS.
The Maryland-based National Institutes of Health will give the ASU Biodesign Institute the five-year federal grant so researchers can create a formula women can use to protect themselves before sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
George Poste, director of the institute, said there is a "urgent need’’ for this type of treatment, particularly in Third World countries facing the ravages of HIV and AIDS.
"Many more women are exposed to unprotected sex in that situation, with many more HIV positive individual males placing them at risk’’ Poste said. "We also have the cultural status of many women in many of these countries, where they are facing intense chauvinism, that they have literally no capacity to refuse sex or will be exposed to violent rape.’’
Charles Arntzen, codirector for the Center of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at the institute, will be principal investigator for the project. ASU will work with Mapp Biopharmaceutical in San Diego and one of the National Vaccine Testing Centers at the University of Maryland.
The research will focus on developing microbicides, plant-based products that could destroy or hinder sexually-transmitted viruses. Gels, creams or time-released applications, such as vaginal sponges or rings for female use could be developed. At a recent international AIDS conference in Bangkok, Thailand, global health organizations urged more investment in microbicide research for use in developing countries where HIV rates are highest and men are less likely to use condoms.
"There are others still in research and development but this is totally a new approach to try to produce it in plants for the purpose of low cost production,’’ Poste said.
The research will be done at the ASU Biodesign Institute, its school of life sciences and ASU East in Mesa. Clinical testing and trials, most likely, will be done after the five-year project.