What are Microbicides?
The term “microbicide” refers to a range of experimental products such as gels, creams, rings, and films that aim to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. Current microbicide trials are evaluating candidates that are applied vaginally or rectally using an applicator. In most of these studies volunteers are asked to use the candidate microbicide before, and sometimes after, every sex act. There is also work underway to explore other types of “delivery” systems, such as a vaginal ring that would release the microbicide that could be worn for long periods of time and wouldn’t require application before sex.
An effective microbicide would reduce the risk of HIV infection at the site of sexual exposure. There is a range of ways that a microbicide might provide this protection. It might contain an active ingredient that blocks HIV activity directly; it might provide a more general enhancement of naturally-occurring mucosal defenses and/or physical barrier at the mucosal surfaces.
Global investment in microbicide R&D grew by US$59 million from 2011 to 2012 to a total of US$245 million. Of the 2012 total, the public sector provided US$217 million (89 percent); the philanthropic sector, US$25 million (10 percent); and the commercial sector, US$3 million (1 percent). While funding grew in all sectors in 2012, the largest increases came from major public and philanthropic donors.
Public-sector funding grew by US$41 million over the 2011 level, reflecting substantial increases in funding from the US NIH and USAID. The US public sector was the largest source of microbicide funding overall in 2012, increasing by US$25 million to total US$173 million.
As for the philanthropic sector, the BMGF also substantially increased its contribution in 2012, to nearly US$22.9 million. The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID)20 almost doubled its investment in 2012, and new funders appeared, including the Netherland’s Aids Fonds and the US- based Campbell Foundation.