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.

Microbicide Investment

Global investment in microbicide R&D declined overall in 2014 by US$17 million, down to US$193 million. Of the 2014 total, the public sector provided US$182 million (94 percent), the philanthropic sector US$8 million (4 percent) and industry US$3 million (two percent) (Figures 20 and 21). The NIH was the predominant US public-sector contributor at US$108 million (59 percent of all publicsector funding for microbicides), followed by US$45 million from USAID). The European public sector followed at US$23 million (12 percent); other individual country contributions constituted the remainder. Although the NIH reduced support for microbicide research in 2014 by US$3.4 million, the US public sector remained the largest source of all microbicide investment globally, funding 80 percent of the 2014 total. Figure 22 displays patterns of investment by individual key funders over the past eight years.

Philanthropic funding also declined in 2014, with the largest reductions in funding coming from the BMGF and the Wellcome Trust, whose combined participation fell by US$12.5 million in 2014. Additionally, some philanthropic funders that had invested in microbicide research in previous years did not do so in 2014. Some European funders also decreased their funding in 2014, including Denmark, Norway and the UK, with a US$4 million overall reduction from European public-sector donors.



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