Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck License New AIDS Drugs To International Partnership for MicrobicidesBristol-Myers Squibb and Merck on Monday agreed to license to the International Partnership for Microbicides four experimental antiretroviral treatments to be formulated and tested as microbicides that could help prevent HIV infection among women, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Under the agreement, Merck will license three of the experimental drugs and BMS will license one to the organization. All four drugs are from a new class of antiretrovirals called entry inhibitors that help prevent HIV from entering the immune system cells it normally invades (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/1). The licenses, which are royalty-free, provide IPM with the rights to distribute the compounds in developing countries (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 11/1). The agreements mark the first time large pharmaceutical companies have signed on to help develop microbicides (Fox, Reuters UK, 10/31). 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 in women (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/22).
"These historic agreements mark a turning point in the pharmaceutical industry's commitment to developing a safe and effective microbicide to protect women from HIV," IPM CEO Zeda Rosenberg said. Helene Gayle, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also praised the agreement, as did UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, who said the partnership was "the kind of innovative collaboration" needed to develop microbicides (Joint release, 10/31). In addition, the Alliance for Microbicide Development lauded the announcement. "The agreements are a big step forward for the kind of public-private partnerships we need to expedite microbicide development," Alliance Director Polly Harrison said (Alliance for Microbicide Development release, 10/31).
A drug compound applied as a vaginal gel might protect against HIV transmission, according to research in macaque monkeys published Monday in the journal Nature, the Washington Post reports (Gillis, Washington Post, 11/1). John Moore, a researcher at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and colleagues tested three drug compounds that disrupt HIV's ability to infect cells. The researchers dissolved the compounds to produce a gel and applied them vaginally to macaque monkeys to test how well each compound protected the monkeys from infection with simian HIV, a combined virus that mimics HIV in monkeys. One compound protected 21 out of 28 macaques treated 30 minutes before the SHIV vaginal challenge. When the three compounds were combined, they completely blocked infection in the three treated monkeys. The compounds also provided protection up to six hours after application (Reuters Health, 10/31).