Implantable Drug Delivery System May Revolutionize HIV Care


Implants could produce and deliver monoclonal anti-HIV antibody therapy for at least 1 year.

New research efforts into encapsulated “drug factories” may revolutionize the long-term treatment of HIV with novel implants that deliver medication.1

Researchers from Rice University are developing an implant for the treatment for patients with HIV and other infectious diseases. The researchers are developing implants that produce and deliver monoclonal anti-HIV antibody (mAb) therapy for at least 1 year.

The same researchers are also developing other implantable therapies for conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes, and heart attack-related injuries.

“We’re starting to tackle diseases like HIV and malaria because their complexity, how therapy has to be administered and the cost mean many parts of the world don’t benefit from biologic therapeutics,” Omid Veiseh, assistant professor of Bioengineering, Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Scholar in Cancer Research, said in a press release.

This novel system uses cells that are engineered to produce therapeutic substances, such as mAbs, which are delivered to patients via protective biopolymer shells. Veiseh said that the cell-protecting capsules can be adapted to deliver combination therapies for multiple infectious conditions.

“What’s fascinating is that biologics are made by cells, but manufactured in giant bioreactors,” Veiseh said in the release. “A lot of cost and effort goes into purifying the biologic you want, to stabilize it and ultimately put it in a vial, which then has to be shipped and administered to the patient.

He added that the delivery of HIV therapy would be easier than his efforts to treat diabetes with an implant because the implant would not have to track and respond to glucose levels.

“The cells can just make the biologic,” Veiseh said.

In a study published in March, Veiseh and other researchers from Rice, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Virginia, as well as other institutions, found they could use the implants to eliminate advanced-stage ovarian and colorectal cancers in mice in as few as 6 days.2

The bead-shaped implants used in the cancer study measured approximately 1.5 millimeters. The implant was packed with cells that are engineered to produce interleukin (IL)-2, which activates white blood cells to attack cancer cells.

The researchers found that they could deliver concentrated doses of IL-2 directly to tumors through the use of minimally invasive surgery to plant the beads beside tumors and within the peritoneum. The investigators hope to begin a clinical trial in humans in the near future, which they said would be the first to evaluate the implantable drug factory bead in humans.

“Our vision is to improve the logistics and bring that manufacturing right into the patient,” Veiseh said. “That translates to substantial cost-cutting, better patient compliance and overall benefits to the patients. You just do it once, and it’s good for the rest of the year.”


1. HIV ‘drug factory’ implant promises once-a-year therapy. Rice University. News release. December 2, 2022.

2. Rice lab’s ‘drug factory’ implants cleared for human trials. Rice University. News release. August 3, 2022.

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