Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates is investing up to $140 million into the research and development of new “matchstick-sized” PrEP implants to prevent HIV.
PrEP, also known by its brand name Truvada, is a once-daily pill that has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of HIV transmission in HIV-negative people at high risk.
But strict adherence to the HIV prevention medication is critical and now researchers hope that the implant technology, similar to the now-common implants for birth control, could be used to deliver PrEP to those at risk over the course of an entire year.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with pharmaceutical company Intarcia Therapeutics to invest up to $140 million in development of the implants.
Intarcia Therapeutics CEO Kurt Graves said they were “excited and humbled” to work with the Gates Foundation on the new technology, which could also be used by diabetes patients.
He said the company’s Medici drug delivery system would involve “a matchstick-sized osmotic mini-pump that is placed just under the dermal layer of skin to deliver a continuous and consistent flow of medication.”
“Once a drug is approved, a trained healthcare professional can place the small device in an in-office procedure,” he said.
“Each osmotic mini-pump is designed to hold an appropriate volume of drug to treat a patient for up to a full year.”
Gates Foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann said such an implant could make “a world of difference” for people most in need, including those in Sub-Saharan Africa where the HIV epidemic is most severe.
“There’s a vital need for an HIV/AIDS intervention that allows those at risk to incorporate prevention more easily into their daily lives,” she said.
(Top photos by Russell Watkins/DFID via Flickr and Intarcia Therapeutics Inc)