Gates Foundation Gives $60 Million to International Partnership To Research, Develop Microbicide To Prevent HIV Infection
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation yesterday announced that it will award $60 million to the International Partnership for Microbicides for research into the use of microbicides to prevent HIV transmission, the New York Times reports (Strom, New York Times, 4/1). Microbicides include a range of products such as gels, films, sponges and other products that could help prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3/31). Together with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and Britain, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway, the Gates grant -- the largest ever provided for microbicide research and development -- will provide the partnership, which was founded last year, with $100 million to speed the development of an anti-HIV microbicide (New York Times, 4/1). According to the Washington Post, IPM also has secured funding from the World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund (Barbaro, Washington Post, 4/1). Many AIDS advocates have looked to microbicides as a means of putting sexual health decisions in the hands of women. Because a prevention product is "effective only to the extent that it is used," microbicides would have the advantage of allowing a woman to be in control of their use, according to Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women. The development of a microbicide gel that could be applied vaginally or rectally would enable women to protect themselves when cultural barriers prevent them from requesting that their partners wear condoms (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/13).
Need for Female-Controlled Method 'Clear and Urgent'
"The imperative to find something that women can use to protect themselves from HIV is clear and urgent," Helene Gayle, director of HIV, tuberculosis and reproductive health for the foundation, said, adding, "The only technology we have is a male-controlled technology -- a condom." There has been little interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies in the development of an effective microbicide because of a lack of "clear moneymaking potential for microbial products," Gayle said, according to the AP/Review-Journal (AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3/31). The grant will go toward research, development, clinical testing and regulatory approval expenses, Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of IPM, said. While there are six experimental microbicides in advanced-stage human clinical trials, years of testing remain before a product will be available for widespread distribution. However, Rosenberg predicted that a microbicide could be available by the end of the decade (Washington Post, 4/1).