IPM Receives Award from USAID to Advance Dual-Purpose Prevention Ring
Long-acting ring would offer HIV prevention and contraception, empowering women to both control their fertility and protect themselves from HIV
Dakar, Senegal (30 November 2011) —The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) today announced it has received a five-year award with a $2 million ceiling from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The competitive award is to develop a 60-day vaginal ring that would combine the antiretroviral (ARV) drug dapivirine with a contraceptive to offer women around the world both HIV protection and contraception in a single product.
Presented on World AIDS Day at the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal, the new project, to be led by IPM Executive Vice President for Product Development Dr. Bríd Devlin, is an important step in IPM’s efforts to develop safe, effective products women can use and control to protect their health. Research has consistently shown that a woman’s risk of HIV and her reproductive health are inherently linked, demonstrating a clear need for tools that women can use that address these issues in tandem.
The USAID funding will support IPM as it integrates a contraceptive into IPM’s existing dapivirine-only ring. The dapivirine ring adapts a medical technology commonly used to deliver hormones to women — the vaginal ring — to the fight against HIV, and is set to enter an efficacy program in 2012.
“We applaud USAID for its commitment to maternal health,” said IPM CEO Dr. Zeda Rosenberg. “Advancing a product that could expand both women’s HIV prevention and family planning options has the potential to have profound benefits, particularly in developing countries where HIV prevention and reproductive technologies are crucial to maintaining women’s health.”
The dual-purpose dapivirine-contraceptive ring would offer a convenient and affordable option for women who want both HIV prevention and a contraceptive, and for whom condoms are not always a realistic choice. In addition, because the ring offers sustained protection, it may increase a woman’s ability to use it consistently — helping to ensure its effectiveness.
“USAID’s priorities in family planning and reproductive health focus on supporting the development and introduction of prevention products that meet a variety of women’s needs,” said Dr. Judy Manning, Health Development Officer at USAID and manager of IPM’s new award. “If this project can successfully formulate a potent and inexpensive combination ring that is effective for 60 days, then we’ll have another option available for women in those regions of the world impacted by high rates of unintended pregnancy and HIV.”
High rates of HIV and unintended pregnancy are significant causes of health complications and death for young women worldwide. In southern Africa, young women are up to five times more likely to become infected with HIV than young men, yet women often lack practical tools they can use to protect themselves. Fortunately, recent studies have shown the potential for prevention methods based on the same type of ARV used in the ring to protect against sexually transmitted HIV in women and save millions of lives.
“If we want to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target of substantially reducing maternal mortality and realizing universal access to reproductive health, we need to address the needs of women in poor countries” said Dr. Helen Rees, Founder and Executive Director of the The Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI), University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. “IPM’s pharmaceutical and scientific expertise and its strong partnerships with developing country scientists and communities make it uniquely placed to develop new combination technologies that could profoundly impact on the health of women.”
Filling the gap in maternal health services for women who want to delay or prevent pregnancy could decrease the number of women who die during pregnancy or childbirth by about one-third. Expanding women’s options with a discreet and affordable product that could safely meet both women’s contraceptive and HIV prevention needs could therefore help reduce maternal mortality and empower women to protect their own health.
If recent findings suggesting a link between injectable hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk are confirmed through additional studies, the need for a product such as the dual-purpose prevention ring may prove even more urgent.
Dapivirine belongs to a class of ARVs known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, or NNRTIs, which have long been used successfully to treat HIV and to prevent mother-to-child transmission. IPM is developing the drug for use as a microbicide through a royalty-free license granted by Tibotec Pharmaceuticals, one of the Janssen pharmaceutical companies. Dapivirine has been tested in 26 clinical studies to date, all showing it to be safe and well-tolerated.
In addition to work on the dapivirine-only ring with its partner, the US National Institutes of Health-funded Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), IPM is also developing a maraviroc ring and maraviroc-dapivirine combination HIV prevention ring, also with MTN. IPM is developing maraviroc for use as a microbicide through a royalty-free license with ViiV Healthcare.
IPM’s work is supported by many governments, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. Other supporters include the European Commission and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) along with foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
About IPM: IPM is a nonprofit product development partnership dedicated to developing new HIV prevention technologies and making them available to women in developing countries. IPM has offices in the United States, South Africa and Belgium. To learn more, please visit www.IPMglobal.org.
Onsite at ICFP in Dakar: Christine McKenna, +1.914.548.1443
IPM US and Europe: Holly Seltzer, hseltzer@IPMglobal.org, +1.301.608.4277
IPM Africa: Leonard Solai, lsolai@IPMglobal.org, +27.84.660.6776