HIV-blocking gel research boosted by £90 million

Funding green-light for development of gel that blocks HIV

The development of gels that can protect people against HIV is to receive more than £90 million of funding, after work by British scientists suggesting that is has the best chance yet of controlling the spread of Aids.

The field of microbicides, involving gels designed to block HIV from entering the bloodstream, is to be supported with the huge grant from the Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A number of world-leading British research teams, including those at Imperial College London, St George’s, University of London, and the Medical Research Council, are expected to be recipients.

The grant follows results from a preliminary trial, released this month, which suggest that a new gel, applied inside the vagina, may reduce the chances of women contracting HIV by a third. The findings raise the prospects of success for a second, larger, trial of the same drug, run by Imperial, which is due to finish in August.

The condition has claimed more than 25 million lives to date. Of the 16,000 people around the world contracting HIV every day, the majority are infected by unprotected sex, with the greatest incidence in sub-Saharan Africa and India. With an Aids vaccine still decades away, it is the most realistic drug strategy to protect people against infection say scientists.

Zeda Rosenberg, chief executive of the International Partnership for Microbicides, described the trial as an ‘important milestone’ and said the support of the Government and the Gates Foundation added ‘crucial momentum to delivering on the promise of microbicides’.

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