News archive 2010
European project to reduce HIV transmission27 Jan 2010, PR 20/10
King’s College London will be the coordinating institution for a new project involving 31 partner organisations across Europe as well as in South Africa, the USA and Ukraine, aimed at developing anti-HIV products to reduce the transmission of HIV by sexual intercourse.
The Combined highly active anti-retroviral microbiocides (CHAARM) project, co-funded with a contribution of €12 million from the European Commission, aims to develop microbicide products that could be applied in the form of a gel, cream or a slow-release device so as to prevent infection with HIV at vaginal or rectal surfaces. No microbicide has yet been approved for use although a number are being tested. Combining two or more microbicides in a single product may be much more effective than using a single microbicide and, importantly, may reduce the likelihood of HIV becoming resistant to the product.
Charles Kelly, Professor of Oral Immunology in the Dental Institute, who will be leading the project at King’s comments: ‘This programme represents a very significant contribution from the European Commission to develop new microbicides. It brings together many of the leading European researchers in the field together with colleagues from outside Europe.
'It is an exciting programme aimed at developing a pipeline of potential microbicides and will include early stage human trials of the most advanced. We are looking forward to the first meeting of the consortium which will be held in Rome in early February to launch the project and are certain that it will produce new and very interesting ideas for collaborative research.’
Microbicide development requires a multidisciplinary approach. The project involves researchers with diverse skills including structural biologists, chemists, virologists and clinicians as well as representatives of patient groups. As coordinating institution King’s will ensure the rapid exchange of information, products and laboratory personnel that will be needed to ensure the success of the project. King’s will also be involved in testing the efficacy of potential microbicides using relatively fast-throughput molecular assays.
Microbicides represent a potential tool which could stop HIV transmission through sexual contact. As yet, there is no effective microbicide on the market. Nevertheless, the potential impact of a good microbicide is immense. Previous studies have shown that even a microbicide that is only 60 per cent effective could still prevent 2.5 million cases of HIV over 3 years if just 20 per cent of people in contact with local services in developing countries used it half the time.
CHAARM will develop rigorous procedures for testing efficacy and safety using new model systems. The programme will include human studies to determine microbicide safety and will investigate biomarkers associated with health or damage at mucosal surfaces. It will also investigate formulation and potential scale-up of production of microbicides.
The project will directly support the discovery of new more efficient microbicides as well as combinations of existing drugs. Combination microbicides with increased breadth of coverage against divergent HIV-1 strains are expected to reduce the probability of transmitting viruses resistant to any single inhibitor and may act in synergy, creating dose-sparing effects.
Professor Kelly says: ‘Effective microbicides would represent a very important addition to existing approaches to prevent HIV infection with the potential of preventing millions of people from becoming infected.’
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 21,000 students from nearly 140 countries, and more than 5,700 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
Kate Moore, Public Relations Officer (Health)
Public Relations Department
Tel: 020 7848 4334
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