Inflammasome gets Gates grant for dual HIV-birth control implant

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ("Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Jack at Wikipedia)

Inflammasome Therapeutics has received funding to develop a sustained-release formulation that provides protection from HIV infection and birth control for 12 months. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is bankrolling the project through a $1.3 million grant. 

Using the money, Inflammasome will work on a bioerodible implant that releases a consistent level of two drugs for 12 months. The implant will release Merck’s nucleoside reverse transcriptase translocation inhibitor islatravir to prevent HIV infection and the hormone levonorgestrel for birth control. After 12 months, the implant will dissolve, sparing the patient from a procedure to remove it.

The product could address two of the many objectives of the Gates Foundation. The foundation is working to expand the range of contraceptive options available to women and girls. At the same time, the foundation is focused on developing long-acting prevention interventions for HIV.

Inflammasome received the 21-month grant from the Gates Foundation less than one year after receiving support for a related project. In September 2020, the Gates Foundation awarded Inflammasome a $1 million grant to fund work on an 18-month, sustained-release bioerodible implant for birth control.

The expansion of the relationship to cover HIV positions Inflammasome to showcase the ability of its sustained-release technology to provide the long-lasting activity now being sought by developers of prophylactics and treatments. 

Merck released data from a phase 1 trial of an islatravir implant earlier this year and is partnered with Gilead on long-acting oral and injectable formulations. The alliance may expand to cover other formulations in the future. GlaxoSmithKline is betting on long-acting injectables. 

Inflammasome said its technology “can be applied to almost any small molecule requiring consistent dosing over an extended period,” adding that “there is also the potential to use our technology to develop an implant specifically to prevent HIV infection.”