Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ charity foundation has invested a vast amount of funding to research HIV-preventing drug implants.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing up to $140 million in funding for the groundbreaking new tech, which could revolutionize HIV prevention.
At the moment, prevention drugs are available as a pill that, if taken daily, can vastly reduce a person’s chances of being infected with HIV.
The drugs are recommended by the World Health Organization for use by at-risk groups including men who have sex with men – but are only effective if the pills are taken consistently.
There are hopes that implant technology, similar to systems available for birth control, could be used to deliver a consistent supply of drugs, aiding people vulnerable to HIV.
Ahead of large-scale trials of PrEP implants, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has entered a relationship with pharma company Intarcia Therapeutics to research and develop the tech. It has pledged $50 million towards the initial project, with a further $90 million funding tied to milestone goals, and a commitment to further development grants if successful.
Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “There’s a vital need for an HIV/AIDS intervention that allows those at risk to incorporate prevention more easily into their daily lives.
“We feel optimistic about our partnership with Intarcia and the prospect of an implantable prophylactic device that could make a world of difference for people most in need.”
Kurt Graves, Chairman, President and CEO of Intarcia Therapeutics, said: “We are tremendously excited and humbled to work with an incredible organization as smart, forward-looking and purpose-based as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”
The company explains: “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. Each osmotic mini-pump is designed to hold an appropriate volume of drug to treat a patient for up to a full year.”