Agreement offers new HIV prevention possibilities for women

May 17, 2014

The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) announced that it has received exclusive worldwide rights to a promising HIV prevention medicine called dapivirine from Janssen R&D Ireland.

The agreement expands on IPM’s existing rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize dapivirine-based products for use by women in developing countries such as a vaginal ring that combines dapivirine and a contraceptive.

This marks a proud moment for Irish Aid, a key supporter of IPM since its founding in 2002 in their goal of accelerating the development of – and access to – effective microbicides for women living in the world’s poorest settings. Congratulations also to Janssen R&D Ireland for their insight and innovation!

“This agreement could have profound implications for women’s health,” said Dr. Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and founding executive director of UNAIDS. “Not only will it expand women’s access to affordable, potentially lifesaving prevention products but also make sure research into new tools continues. It serves as a valuable model for how creative partnerships can help tackle some of the most daunting global health challenges.”

The importance of such partnerships cannot be underestimated. Public-private partnerships are fast becoming a cornerstone for tackling global health issues. And the issue of HIV which is being targeted by Janssen and IPM is a very real one. Despite the fall in HIV infection rates by a third since 2001, there are still too many women yet to benefit from treatment breakthroughs. Indeed, in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women aged 15 – 24 are three to four times more likely to be infected with HIV as their male counterparts.

For this reason, the fight against HIV needs to be one where the power to prevent is placed in the hands of women. By providing protection based on their needs – such as microbicides and multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) in the form of vaginal rings, films and gels, it is hoped that more women are able to prevent HIV infection.Speaking about the announcement, Dr Zeda Rosenberg, CEO of IPM (who spoke during the IFGH 2010 International Conference in Maynooth) said “Women are in a race against time for new HIV prevention methods, and they need innovative tools to protect themselves and help reverse the course of the epidemic.”

Currently IPM has rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise dapivirine-based products for women in developing countries. This new agreement with Janssen will provide women in developed countries with access to similar dapivirine products. This new market will then help to fund IPM’s nonprofit mission amongst those women most affected by HIV – by developing HIV and multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) for women – in resource-poor countries.

The partnership of Janssen and IPM has gone a long way in bringing ARV access to those most in need, with Janssen licensing dapivirine to IPM under a royalty-free agreement in 2004 to develop the ARV medicine as a microbicide specifically for women in developing countries. Janssen’s newly-established Global Public Health group marks the next step in their longstanding collaboration with IPM – one which has potential to secure womens’ futures, and access to prevention products, worldwide.

“Our worldwide rights agreement with Janssen is a powerful example of how public-private partnerships can accelerate access to urgently needed, affordable health products,” added Dr. Rosenberg. “By pooling the expertise of partners across sectors, we can more effectively help women at risk for HIV and, ultimately, end the spread of HIV/AIDS altogether.”  

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