Germany supplies implant materials for HIV preventive prototype

The multinational pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) has developed an implantable product capable of delivering a drug that provides protection from infection with HIV for one year. The matchstick-sized implant releases the antiretroviral drug islatravir, formerly called EFdA or MK-8591.

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The company, known as Merck in the US and Canada, presented the results of a Phase 1 study evaluating the pharmacokinetics and safety of a prototype sub-dermal drug-eluting implant for extended administration of islatravir, the company’s investigational nucleoside reverse transcriptase translocation inhibitor (NRTTI), in healthy volunteers. The announcement came at the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City in July.

Merck's senior vice president and head of global clinical development, Dr. Roy Baynes, the chief medical officer at Merck Research Laboratories said of the implant, "We are encouraged by the results of this proof of concept study exploring the potential of delivering meaningful doses of islatravir over a 12-week period. At Merck, we recognize multiple options are needed to address the needs of individuals at risk of HIV-1, and we are committed to investigating those options. Through the application of our established expertise in drug delivery, we are seeking to capture the potential of islatravir for HIV-1 pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).”

During the development of the drug and implant, Evonik Industries in Essen, Germany, supplied all the biodegradable polymers used in the clinical trials. The drug itself was provided by Merck in the US. The implant was inserted sub-dermally in the non-dominant arm in the Phase 1 trial. Meanwhile, Merck is continuing to explore potential options for PrEP, including the drug-eluting implant and a once-monthly oral formulation.

Evonik is just one of many German enterprises cooperating with major pharmaceutical companies at home and around the world to advance the development of innovative, new drugs. The country's pharmaceutical industry is the largest sub-sector of the healthcare industry in Germany, with high levels of investment in research and development (R&D) and around one fifth of its workforce dedicated to innovation.

Germany is additionally home to a thriving contract research industry in the area of biopharmaceuticals. The Export Initiative for the German Healthcare Industry, HEALTH MADE IN GERMANY, has available a range of directories to aid interested individuals and businesses abroad find suitable partners in healthcare and contract research.