Northwestern scientists have received a five-year, $17.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for an interdisciplinary project that aims to invent,
develop and test an implantable drug delivery system to protect high-risk individuals from HIV infection for up to a year at a time.

The Sustained Long-Acting Protection Against HIV program will bring together 15 basic scientists and clinical investigators from 15 departments across Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and Kellogg School of Management.

Currently, there are three ways to prevent sexual transmission of HIV: abstinence, condoms and daily antiretroviral drugs. But adherence to each of these methods is low.

“Long-acting systems have the great advantage of not requiring repeated modification of behavior,” said Patrick Kiser, associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg and biomedical engineering at McCormick.

“With implants or injectable systems that deliver antiretroviral drugs, a person no longer has to worry about contracting HIV for a relatively long period of time.”

Prof. Kiser and Professor Thomas Hope, the principal investigators of the project, will work together to invent a new kind of implant that delivers antiretroviral drugs in a controlled way. Specifically, they are interested in a drug called cabotegravir, which stops the HIV virus from putting its DNA into a host’s genetic material.

Scientists from multiple institutions involved in the project will develop and test two additional drug delivery platforms. The investigators will then select one to pursue for clinical development.