Injectable Implant May be the Future of HIV Prevention


Novel drug delivery system steadily releases preventive HIV drugs over an extended period of time.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were recently awarded a $1.8 million grant to develop a novel implantable drug delivery system that slowly releases preventive HIV drugs over long periods of time.

This injectable formulation contains an anti-HIV drug, a polymer, and a solvent. After injection, the compounds solidify in the skin, the drug slowly releases, and the polymer degrades, according to a press release.

“This long-acting injectable formulation could provide a discrete and efficient method to protect against HIV infection and improve adherence, which is one of the major challenges of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,” investigator Rahima Benhabbour, PhD, said in a release.

Although there are other long-acting injectable drug formulations for PrEP that are currently being evaluated in clinical trials, these formulations cannot be removed once injected.

“The goal of our study is to develop an injectable polymer-based delivery system for long-acting PrEP that offers durable, sustained protection from HIV transmission, high efficacy of HIV inhibition, increased adherence, and the ability to be removed in case of an unanticipated adverse event or when considering discontinuation of this form of PrEP,” investigator Martina Kovarova, PhD, said in the release. “If discontinuation of treatment is desired, the implant would be readily removable.”

The grant was provided by the NIH for a 3-year study, and the CDC will assist the investigators in testing the injectable implant. They hope it will provide up to 3 months of protection against HIV.

“We’re in the very beginning stages of this project,” Kovarova said in the release. “This novel formulation has outstanding properties, and we are excited to move ahead.”

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