Drs. Swindells, Scarsi part of $32 million project

by Vicky Cerino, UNMC public relations | February 07, 2020

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Two UNMC faculty members are among a group of researchers collaborating on a $32 million grant to speed up development of long-acting versions of medicines for low- and middle-income countries.

Susan Swindells, M.B.B.S., and Kimberly Scarsi, Pharm.D., are part of a consortium with the University of Liverpool's five-year grant called LONGEVITY. The goal is to develop long-acting formulations of drugs for malaria and tuberculosis prevention, and a cure for hepatitis C. The project will create a center of excellence in long-acting therapeutics with a laboratory dedicated to product development at the University of Liverpool in England.

Other collaborators are Johns Hopkins University, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Treatment Action Group and Tandem Nano Ltd.

UNMC will receive $2.7 million for the project, Dr. Swindells said.

The grant is funded by Unitaid, an international organization that invests in innovations to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria more quickly, affordably and effectively.

"We are excited about this great new opportunity," said Dr. Swindells, UNMC professor of internal medicine-infectious diseases. "Long-acting medicines have had a big impact in several disease states, and recent study results from long-acting HIV treatments are promising.

"This grant will allow us to try and develop long-acting drugs for malaria, hepatitis C and TB. TB prevention is a special interest of mine, and I recently headed a big international study that showed that one month of preventive therapy was as good as the standard 6-month regimen in people with HIV. If we can make this into an injection that would protect people from TB, it would be huge step forward," Dr. Swindells said.

Dr. Scarsi, associate professor, UNMC Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science in the College of Pharmacy, said UNMC's part in the project will be to understand the perspectives of individuals most likely to use or prescribe the new medications.

"We will accomplish this through surveying patients and providers in the areas of the world with the highest burden of each infection to understand what type of long-acting product is optimal for diverse settings," Dr. Scarsi said. "In addition, we will offer the team both a clinical and pharmacologic perspective on product development and clinical trial design."

She said overall, the consortium is working to pre-emptively address common barriers encountered when developing new therapies, spanning product development, clinical testing, and eventually, wide-spread access to the medication.

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