CONRAD receives $100 million from USAID for microbicide development

September 08, 2008

Arlington, VA - The CONRAD Program of the Eastern Virginia Medical School today announced that it has received a $100 million award from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue its development work on microbicides. To date, USAID has awarded a total of $160 million to CONRAD for microbicide research.

Microbicides are products in development that will eventually come in a variety of forms, such as topical gels, creams, tablets, films, oral pills to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and potentially other sexually transmitted infections. Effective microbicides could be an important HIV prevention option for women, who account for approximately half of all people living with HIV globally.

"We are grateful to USAID for their continued support," said Henry Gabelnick, Executive Director of CONRAD. "They have been our champions since the beginning of CONRAD over twenty years ago. This Cooperative Agreement will support five years of research for a variety of studies that will advance progress toward a successful microbicide, with a focus on continued clinical testing of several microbicide candidates in trials, including tenofovir gel which is currently in a Phase IIb trial in South Africa, and UC781 which is currently undergoing safety studies at several sites here and abroad."

One of the accomplishments of CONRAD is the establishment of the capacity to take a novel biomarker from discovery to clinical validation. Biomarkers are biochemical substances that can be used to measure the progress of disease or the effects of treatment. CONRAD is currently developing new biomarkers of cervicovaginal inflammation and new biomarkers of vaginal exposure to semen which will indicate whether intercourse unprotected by condoms took place. If a biomarker of HIV transmission could be found that would give an early indication of the likely efficacy of a candidate microbicide before thousands of women are enrolled in a Phase III trial, the benefit to the microbicide field as a whole will be great. USAID's continued financial support of this research is critical.

"CONRAD has particular expertise in preclinical and early clinical research, and we are glad to see the new agreement focused on this aspect of microbicide development," said Dr. Judy Manning with USAID. "Given USAID's particular concern for the health of women in developing countries, we are very excited about CONRAD's intention to develop combination products that provide protection protect not only against HIV, but also other sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy."

Even if the first microbicide that is approved is not 100% effective, modeling studies suggest that it could still have a major impact on public health, provided it is used in combination with other HIV prevention methods.
CONRAD is a cooperating agency of USAID committed to improving reproductive health by expanding the contraceptive choices of women and men and by helping to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. CONRAD is a Division of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk, VA, where it has laboratories and a clinical research center. The main office is located in Arlington, VA with additional offices in Atlanta, GA and West Chester, PA.


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