UCSF receives $21 million NIH contract for sexually transmitted infection research

By Jeff Sheehy

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $21 million to the UCSF Women’s Global Health Imperative to conduct clinical trials for new treatments as well as prevention and diagnostic products for non-HIV sexually transmitted infections (STI).

The trials will cover a full range of treatments and products, including microbicides, which are pathogen-killing topical creams or gels, and vaccines.

“We will be conducting the initial human testing—Phase I safety trials—of the most promising and safest vaccine, microbicide, STI treatment and diagnostic products in the pipeline.  Our goal is to get new products, if proven safe, into efficacy trials faster and then, if efficacious, into the populations that need them,” said principal investigator, Craig Cohen, MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and associate director at the UCSF Women’s Global Health Imperative (WGHI).

The seven-year contract will target non-HIV STIs, including herpes viruses, syphilis, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus and chlamydia.  The research will be conducted with industry sponsors, as well as with UCLA, San Francisco Department of Public Health, the University of Toronto, Los Angeles Department of Health Services, California Department of Health Services Sexually Transmitted Diseases Branch, and international partners from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Brazil, China, Vietnam and Mexico.

The contract will provide an opportunity to establish a STI training program that will be overseen by UCSF Global Health Sciences. Students from international partners will be able to participate in a yearlong program at UCSF that includes certification and mentoring.

“While an important goal of this research to have the latest, safest and most effective technologies to prevent, diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections available for the most vulnerable populations, there is also an urgent need to build global public health capacity by training health care providers from countries with at-risk populations,” said Nancy Padian, PhD, UCSF WGHI director and associate director for research at UCSF Global Health Sciences.

Across the globe, the UCSF WGHI conducts rigorous research and training related to HIV/AIDS, gender, reproductive health, and safe motherhood including primary research, descriptive studies and prevention science. This research is used to design and rapidly implement practical and effective prevention and treatment strategies for women at risk of HIV/AIDS, STIs, unintended pregnancies, and maternal mortality

WGHI is a component of the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and the AIDS Research Institute. The AIDS Research Institute (ARI) at UCSF houses hundreds of scientists and dozens of programs throughout UCSF and affiliated labs and institutions, making ARI one of the largest HIV/AIDS research entities in the world.