In addition to our own research efforts, we also have entered into collaborations with other researchers and scientific organizations to help accelerate the search for new treatments and possible cures.
To help find new ways to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, in 2008 Merck granted the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) a non-royalty-bearing, nonexclusive license to develop, manufacture and distribute a novel ARV compound (L'644) for use as a vaginal microbicide to help protect women in developing countries. The compound, the fourth we have licensed to IPM, is a member of a class of ARV molecules known as fusion inhibitors, which inhibit HIV infection by preventing the virus from fusing with the surface of target cells—an early step in the HIV infection process—potentially representing a novel way to block infection. Merck is also collaborating with IPM to advance early-stage product development research efforts. This recent agreement follows a similar IPM-Merck agreement announced in 2005.
Merck deserves recognition for its exemplary commitment to HIV-prevention research. This arrangement helps IPM pursue development of compounds that target HIV at many points in the virus life cycle. We're working toward the day when millions of women around the world will have access to safe and effective microbicides—and partnerships like this will help us get there.
Dr. Zeda Rosenberg
CEO of IPM
Merck regularly communicates, interacts and collaborates openly with scientific leaders in the HIV/AIDS field to advance science. In the United States, for more than a decade, Merck has had an established physician advisory board that includes international and national scientific leaders. This advisory board meets with Merck regularly to discuss and advise Merck on HIV research and development strategy, emerging scientific issues and clinical program design. At the international level, Merck has also established a similar advisory board with international scientific and clinical leaders worldwide to gain input on emerging challenges in HIV care in developing countries.
In July 2011, Merck announced that several company researchers will participate in two new collaborative efforts led by the prominent academic institutions of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) to develop new approaches towards eradicating HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. UNC, researchers from nine additional U.S. universities and Merck scientists are studying HIV latency and identifying ways to purge persistent infection of the virus from the body. Separately, researchers at UCSF are working with an international team of academic, government and Merck scientists on a five-year research effort to define HIV's reservoirs, better understand the reservoirs and test potential treatments. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, is the primary funding organization for both of these research efforts. Merck does not receive any funding for participation in either effort.
Collaboration has been the hallmark of much of the progress made against HIV since the virus was first identified 30 years ago. Continued collaboration is absolutely essential to better understand HIV reservoirs and identify potential approaches to the daunting challenge of eradicating HIV. Merck is honored and excited to participate in these important new undertakings.
Daria Hazuda, Ph.D.
Vice President, Merck Research Laboratories