Empower Women Against HIV
While condom use remains the most effective protection against sexual transmission of HIV, it is clear that in many parts of the world women are not empowered to insist on it.
The urgent need for novel strategies to block HIV-1 transmission is being recognised by an Europe-wide consortium, the European Microbicides Project (EMPRO) led by King’s College London and funded by the European Commission.
The project aims to develop new products, called microbicides, containing molecules that block the virus’ ability to attach itself to the genital mucosal surfaces. With HIV infection soaring and the absence of a protective vaccine these products are urgently needed.
The European Commission has awarded a grant of 11.7million euros over five years to EMPRO via King’s College London in order to integrate the work of the most relevant researchers in this field.
There are 29 institutions involved in EMPRO based both in European and developing countries working towards four main aims:
- Discovery of new potential microbicides
- Rigorous testing of microbicides using cells and tissue
- Investigation of means of formulating microbicides so that they can be applied and also investigating ways in which they could be produced on a large scale at reasonable cost
- Phase I clinical trials
Professor Charles Kelly of King’s College London’s Dental Institute says: ‘This international collaboration provides much varied expertise and we hope to exploit this to full potential. This is a relatively new field and we have high hopes for the development of these alternative approaches to preventing HIV infection.’
The ideal microbicide should fulfil three criteria:
- Rapid inhibition of HIV-1 infection
- Lack of toxicity
- Lack of potential as an irritant
Professor Kelly is coordinating the project with Dr Robin Shattock of St Georges Hospital Medical School.
Ruth Francis | alfa
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