Skin Implant Promises To Prevent HIV Infection
Intarcia Therapuetics has been backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on a new technology that could prevent the spread of infection
HIV remains one of the world’s most dangerous diseases, and despite plenty of 21st century medical breakthroughs, we haven’t been able to effectively combat the STD beyond reducing its effects or taking preventative measures against it. Despite advancements in gene editing through the use of CRISPR/Cas9, and other such tools, we still haven’t reached a point where we can safely say that we’ve defeated the virus once and for all. In response to the growing body of actionable research surrounding the virus, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently announced a $140 million USD investment in an Intarcia Therapuetics program working to develop an implant embedded beneath the skin which will work to administer steady streams of anti-HIV drugs to infected bodies over the course of six to 12 months.
Forgetting to take your medication is a common occurrence among people with particular ailments, but in the case of HIV, forgetfulness can mean the difference between life and death. The technique that the Gates is funding, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, is only a precaution as the name suggests, but can greatly help couples, where only one of the two individuals has HIV, lead normal lives. Instead of having to remember to swallow a pill once or twice a day, those with the implant will only have to remember to get theirs replaced once or twice a year.
The sponsored company is also working on a variant of the ‘injectable’ aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes, and has already started filing paperwork for commercial use as early as November of 2017. Conversely, widespread use of the HIV pump is years away from realization given concerns of which drug should be used, alongside the relative price of said drug once everything has been chosen and agreed upon. Still, with the generous donation from Bill and Melinda, alongside the groundwork that’s already been laid, everyone everywhere, from sub-Saharan Africa to Upper Manhattan, will benefit.
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Walter de Brouwer is the founder and CEO of Scanadu, a NASA Ames Research-based company with the mission of putting the diagnostic power of a hospital in the hands of the consumer, modeled after the fictional tricorder once imagined in Star Trek. Walter is a Belgian-born technology entrepreneur. He started Scanadu in 2010 after a life-altering family emergency. His goal is to build a suite of smartphone-esque medical tools that reimagine access to healthcare for the people. Prior to Scanadu, de Brouwer ran One Laptop Per Child Europe and founded Starlab. His companies were involved in two IPOs and the merger of Eunet with Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink).