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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 6, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 01
Gates Foundation to invest in 'PrEP pump'

Tiny device could hold a year's supply of meds
Section One
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Gates Foundation to invest in 'PrEP pump'

Tiny device could hold a year's supply of meds

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will invest up to $140 million in what is being described as a 'PrEP pump.'

The tiny device is designed to be implanted in patients and deliver a steady supply of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) meds over a 6- or 12-month period. A similar device loaded with the diabetes drug exenatide already has been developed.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the device is now being developed by Intarcia Therapuetics Inc., based in Boston. The Gates Foundation said it will buy a $50 million equity stake in Intarcia and invest as much $90 million more toward development of the device.

The Gates Foundation funding will help Intarcia adapt its Medici technology program to deliver a steady stream of PrEP meds to healthy patients over an extended period of time. The matchstick-sized device would free patients from the necessity of taking a daily pill.

The Gates Foundation has made 50 similar investments since 2009, the newspaper added.

'The ultimate goal is developing an HIV prophylaxis device that will save lives in the developing world,' Andrew Farnum, the Gates Foundation's director of program-related investments, told the newspaper.

'There's a vital need for an HIV/AIDS intervention that allows those at risk to incorporate prevention more easily into their daily lives,' foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann said in a statement to the Boston Globe.

'Thanks to tremendous financing progress, an even stronger shareholder base, our recent NDA [new drug application] submission in type 2 diabetes, and now a groundbreaking relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Intarcia is poised to open up a totally new category of important once- or twice-yearly treatment and prevention therapies for some of the world's most serious chronic diseases - including those that disproportionately affect people with some of the greatest unmet needs,' Intarcia CEO Kurt Graves said in a December 29 statement.

Intarcia will most likely roll out its device in the US and other relatively wealthy countries, the Wall Street Journal said, but the long-term goal is to bring the technology to parts of the developing world, like sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV is endemic.

The Intarcia pump is only one of a number of HIV-prevention initiatives announced in 2016.

In November, for example, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced a global, 4,500-patient clinical trial to test whether injections of an experimental HIV drug administered every eight weeks could prevent HIV infection. The medication, cabotegravir, is available from UK-based ViiV Healthcare.

Also in November, the first study of an HIV vaccine in seven years was begun in South Africa.

This is 'one of the most exciting years ever in HIV prevention,' said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a global HIV advocacy organization supported by the Gates Foundation.

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