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HIV research project scoops innovation prize


Research that could lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of HIV has scooped a University of Manchester scientist a prestigious industry award.

Dr Curtis Dobson’s work was voted Project of the Year at the annual Northwest Biotechnology Awards ceremony hosted by the Northwest Development Agency programme, Bionow. His research concerns the interaction between human proteins and viruses and the development of novel anti-infective compounds that could become the next generation of HIV-beating drugs as well as possible treatments for other viruses, such as herpes and hepatitis. “The compounds work by stopping the virus before it attaches itself to the cell and are a potential new form of treatment for HIV,” said Dr Dobson.

“In the first nine months of the research we have developed compounds 10 times stronger than the original chemicals we tested on the virus and have already filed three patent applications.“We are now looking to put together a two-year programme of further tests which will be the final stage of the pre-clinical work.”

Dr Dobson’s research also found that the chemicals, known as apolipovirs, also have anti-bacterial properties and could help prevent the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases, like Chlamydia and syphilis, which are both on the increase in the UK.

The project’s first active application, however, looks set to be in the coating of contact lenses to prevent infections of the eye, although the coating of medical equipment more generally is another possible use. Dr Dobson added: “The antimicrobial compounds could be available much sooner than the anti-viral chemicals, although additional testing will still be required before clinical trials can begin.”

The University’s intellectual property company, UMIP, is managing the project, which gained initial, early-stage funding from the Genetics Innovation Network (GIN). Dr Linda Magee, head of Bionow, introduced the awards night at the Mere Golf and Country Club in Cheshire on November 17. She said: “This third annual awards ceremony highlights the growing strength of the Northwest’s biotechnology sector.

“Our universities and hospitals are producing some wonderful research and the region as a whole is making a valuable contribution to UK Plc.”

Aeron Haworth | alfa
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