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Emory University AIDS Researcher Launches Drug Development Company in South Africa
Emory University AIDS researcher Dennis Liotta has formed a new company in South Africa that aims to focus on developing new medicines to treat infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports. The company, called iThemba, will first concentrate on providing outsourcing services to pharmaceutical companies, but Liotta said he hopes the firm will eventually branch out into original drug development. Liotta, who co-developed the antiretroviral drug Coviracil, which is currently awaiting FDA approval, said that South Africa is a good location for a pharmaceutical firm because the population is suitable for clinical trials of new AIDS drugs. In the United States, scientists have difficulty finding HIV-positive people who have never taken AIDS drugs to participate in clinical studies, but the majority of South Africans have never taken anti-AIDS medicines, he noted. Approximately 60% of iThemba's funding will come from the South African government, and the rest of the money will be raised from international investors. IThemba, a Zulu word meaning "hope," is the first product of a partnership between Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of London's Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology. Liotta said that the three universities are currently only involved in the company "peripherally," but noted that if iThemba proves to be successful, they may seek to form co-licensing and intellectual property agreements (Bryant, Atlanta Business Chronicle, 10/4).
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