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SwRI receives contract for siRNA formulation development

San Antonio -- October 25, 2006 -- Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has been awarded a four-year, $700,000 contract as a co-investigator under a U19 cooperative agreement grant through the National Institutes of Health to formulate siRNA microbiocides for targeted drug delivery to prevent HIV, as well as HSV and HPV.

This program will look at short interfering ribonucleic acid (siRNA) for targeted drug delivery method to prevent the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human papilloma virus (HPV). RNA can be used as a form of gene "silencing" or a gene inhibitor.

"SwRI was selected as part of this cooperative program for our drug delivery and microencapsulation expertise," said Joe McDonough, Ph.D., manager of the Synthesis and Drug Delivery Section in the SwRI Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. "We have extensive experience with mucosal delivery. Our role will be to deliver the short interfering RNA into the cell where it will be released.

"This approach delivers interfering RNA specific to the viral agent. A key characteristic of siRNA is that it won't allow DNA of a virus to be replicated in a host cell. It's a new method for fighting viruses."

The program has four main projects and two core areas. The projects are "Novel siRNA Microbicides to Prevent HIV-1 Infection," "Novel Microbicides to Prevent and Treat HSV," "siRNA Structural Optimization," and "Novel siRNA Microbicides to Prevent and Treat HPV Infection." SwRI will direct the formulation core, which focuses on the development of a nano-encapsulated siRNA formulation for mucosal delivery. Using siRNA is a relatively new development in the field of pharmaceuticals, according to McDonough.

"This is SwRI's first major program with RNA interference," McDonough said. "We are excited about the prospect of gaining critical experience in this new area. SwRI has strong drug delivery experience, especially in mucosal delivery. We're looking forward to building on that experience."

The U19 cooperative agreement members are Principal Investigator Dr. Bharat Ramratnam, Brown Medical School; Dr. Betsy Herold, Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York; Dr. Paul Lambert, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Kenneth Alexander, University of Chicago; Dr. Jason Machan, Brown Medical School and McDonough.

Nearly 40 million people are infected with HIV-1 around the world. The human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as HIV, attacks the immune system, making the body vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses. The virus can eventually develop into the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS. At this time, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS. The herpes simplex virus (HSV) has two forms, HSV-1, commonly known as cold sores, and HSV-2, genital herpes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 5 U.S. teenagers and adults is infected with HSV-2 and 1 out of 4 women is infected with HSV-2. There is no cure for HSV.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) has been linked to cervical cancer. In the U.S. about 20 million people - both men and women - have HPV.

The grant is funded through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, overseen by the NIH.

SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division is ISO 9001:2000 certified, meeting international quality standards for product development, from initial design through production and servicing. For more information about SwRI's Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division, please visit chemistry.swri.org. For more information about microencapsulation at SwRI, please visit drugdelivery.swri.org.

Editors: An illustration to accompany this story is available at http://www.swri.org/press/2006/sirna.htm.

For more information contact Tracey M.S. Whelan at (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, PO Drawer 28510, San Antonio, TX 78228-0510.

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