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Grant funds research to develop microbicide barrier to HIV

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 9 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a grant of nearly $8 million to the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) to fund research aimed at developing a microbicide barrier to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS.

The grant, through the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, marks the largest ever received thus far by project principal investigator Sharon Hillier, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"I believe fervently in trying to find a way to help women protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV," said Dr. Hillier, who is also a senior investigator at MWRI. "Currently, women have no way to protect themselves except condoms, and women do not control condom use."

Dr. Hillier and her colleagues will pursue several scientific projects that involve UC781, a tight-binding molecule discovered by co-principal investigator Michael Parniak, Ph.D., professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. An organic molecule about the size of an antibiotic, UC781 is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor that renders the HIV virus incapable of infecting cells. These projects are:

  • Dr. Parniak will perform critical new studies evaluating the microbial activity of UC781, alone and in combination with other active components, against a variety of strains of HIV. This project is designed to focus on the extraordinary genetic diversity of HIV and the corresponding need to inactivate a wide spectrum of viral strains. These early tests will be done in vitro to determine both the efficacy of UC781 against HIV and its safety for use.

  • Phalguni Gupta, Ph.D., professor and assistant chairman of the division of
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  • Contact: Michele Baum
    412-647-3555
    University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
    9-Jan-2003


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