ML Laboratories, based in the United Kingdom, announced last week that it is halting its work on the HIV microbicide gel Emmelle after scientists from the U.K.'s Medical Research Council decided not to include it in a Phase III clinical trial in Africa next year. The microbicide was designed to prevent HIV infections occurring through vaginal sex. ML had manufactured the active ingredient used in the microbicide gel.
"Naturally, we are disappointed that Emmelle gel will not be included in the proposed trial, particularly in view of its favorable safety profile; however, we fully understand and accept the constraints associated with publicly funded programs," said ML chairman S.W. Sim in a press statement. "The economics of developing microbicides are well understood and are such that ML would not contemplate progressing Emmelle gel into Phase III studies without the essential public funding to support the large-scale clinical trial required."
Several other microbicide products are currently in human trials, including two in late-stage Phase III studies. AIDS experts estimate that even a partially effective microbicide used by only 20% of women in low-income countries just half the time they engage in unprotected sex could still prevent as many as 2.5 million HIV infections over a three-year period.