Brussels, 23 Mar 2004
The European Commission has awarded 11.7 million euro over five years to a new Integrated Project that aims to identify novel approaches to preventing HIV-1 transmission.
The European Microbicides Project (EMPRO) brings together 29 institutions from Europe and developing countries, under the coordination of King's College London in the UK. The initiative is being funded under the 'life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health' priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
The Integrated Project aims to develop new products, called microbicides, which contain molecules that can block the virus' ability to attach itself to the genital mucosal surfaces. In the absence of a protective vaccine, such products are urgently needed, according to the team.
'This international collaboration provides much varied expertise and we hope to exploit this to full potential,' says EMPRO coordinator Professor Charles Kelly, from King's College London. 'This is a relatively new field and we have high hopes for the development of these alternative approaches to preventing HIV infection.'
The ideal microbicide should fill three main criteria. It should lead to the rapid inhibition of HIV-1 infection, it should display a lack of toxicity, and should lack potential as a possible irritant.
The EMPRO project itself has four specific aims: the discovery of new potential microbicides, rigorous testing of microbicides using cells and tissue, investigation of means of formulating microbicides and producing them on a large scale at reasonable cost, and carrying out phase one clinical trials.