With long-acting injectable antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV on the cusp of a likely approval, researchers are fast at work on the subsequent generations of technologies that deliver long-acting treatment or prevention of the virus.

Investigators are, for example, developing a matchstick-sized implant that could deliver ARVs for up to 12 months.

Then there are microneedle patches, also known as non-engineered microarray patches (MAPs), which would be applied to the skin. The patch’s surface includes hundreds of tiny medication-infused projections that enter the skin and dissolve. They leave behind nanoparticles of ARVs that could work as long-acting treatment or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Researchers from the University of Liverpool in England and Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland have just been awarded a grant worth the equivalent of about $1.36 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the United Kindgom to develop the microneedle-patch technology.

The Liverpool researchers began investigating such nanomedicine in 2009 and have since collaborated with researchers in Africa, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The technology being developed here is unique and could revolutionize the treatment and prevention of HIV infection,” Marco Siccardi, PhD, a senior lecturer in molecular and clinical pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, said in a press release. “It offers the opportunity to enhance the delivery of HIV drugs, simplifying the management of anti-HIV therapies in the future.”

According to Siccardi, he and his colleagues will rely on high-power computational models to design and anticipate the functioning of the MAPs. This will accelerate the design process and provide useful information that will guide the laboratory experiments.

“Recent global long-acting developments hold the promise to change the paradigm for chronic disease therapy,” said Andrew Owen, PhD, a professor in the same department as Siccardi. “We continue to try and harness technological advances to improve patient outcomes while balancing innovation with the need for wide availability across the globe.”

To read a press release about the research grant, click here.