UofL Researcher Uses Tobacco Plants to Develop Possible HIV Mircobicide

by scrosby on March 30, 2009

A University of Louisville medical researcher has published a study today in a leading medical journal outlining a study that he says could develop a protein to prevent HIV infection.  Dr. Kenneth Palmer works out of the Owensboro Cancer Research Program – the same laboratory that has been growing proteins for the cervical cancer vaccine in tobacco plants.  

They’re using the same technology to grow the active ingredients for the HIV microbicide – Palmer says his goal is to make an inexpensive product that can be used as a topical gel or film.

“For many women in developing countries, maintaining fertility is important, so having a microbicide product that maintains fertility, at the same time as preventing HIV transmission is a big thing,” he says.

Palmer hopes the new product be inexpensive, and therefore available to women in developing countries.  He wants to produce a dose that can be sold for under a dollar.

“Our early stage economic analyses have given us encouragement that this is indeed achievable,” says Palmer.  “I think we can make the active ingredients for the product for under cents-per-dose.”

If the product is successful, Palmer says billions of doses will need to be manufactured.  He says since the main ingredient is grown inside tobacco plants, it could revolutionize agriculture in Kentucky.

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