$7.2 million grant awarded to develop microbicide-releasing vaginal ring

November 10, 2015

"We've deliberately chosen to focus on drugs that have already been approved for systemic use or are far along in the regulatory process. This should shorten the time it takes to begin clinical trials. We know that every day that goes by, more people are getting infected with HIV," says Dr. Herold. The researchers hope to start Phase I clinical testing within the next four years.

The need for a microbicide-releasing vaginal ring is especially urgent in sub-Saharan Africa, where the infection rate among 15 to 49 year-olds exceeds 23 percent in some countries. AIDS is the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa and women account for six out of ten of those living with HIV. "But this is not just a global health problem," says Dr. Herold. "This is a problem here in the U.S. The rates of HIV in certain regions in this country parallel the rates in many areas of developing world."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national infection rate in the United States is 1 percent; in D.C., it is 3 percent, and in the Bronx, 1.7 percent. While men still have higher rates of infection than women in the U.S., AIDS is a common killer for women - ranking third after cancer and heart disease. As of 2007, there were 9,000 women with HIV/AIDS living in the Bronx.

Marla J. Keller, M.D., associate professor of medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Einstein is a co-investigator on the study. Dr. Keller is a leader in clinical studies on microbicide safety and the impact microbicides have on female genital tract mucosal immunity in HIV-infected and uninfected women. In addition to Dr. Herold, Patrick Kiser, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah, is also a principle investigator on the study. Two biotechnology firms, ImQuest BioSciences, Inc. in Frederick, Maryland, and Particle Sciences, Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are also involved in the study.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine