June 17, 2019

Research Roundup: Contraceptives and HIV trial, identification of protective antibodies may be key to malaria vaccine, and Drug Transparency Observatory launched In France

Ansley Kahn
Senior Program Assistant
PATH/Satvir Malhotra

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A clinical trial in four African nations found no substantial difference in HIV risk among women using three different methods of contraception—an injectable, progestin-only contraceptive, a nonhormonal intrauterine device, or IUD, and a progestin-based implant. However, the study—conducted by a consortium led by FHI 360—revealed high rates of HIV contracted among each group of women studied, prompting calls for deeper integration of HIV prevention and family planning services. The World Health Organization (WHO) will begin synthesizing and sharing findings from the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes, or ECHO trial, with WHO’s Guideline Development Group, which will convene at the end of July 2019. This group will consider the trial’s results, along with other research, to determine whether changes are needed to the global guidance on contraceptive use and issue recommendations at the end of August.

A study performed by researchers at the University of Oxford, along with partners at five other institutions, has identified the human antibodies that prevent the malaria parasite from entering blood cells—potentially key to creating a highly effective malaria vaccine. The study was done as part of a clinical trial in Oxford of the first vaccine candidate that targets the RH5 malaria protein, a protein contained in the parasite which must bind to a human protein on red blood cells in order to infect them. This study demonstrated which human antibodies effectively block RH5 from binding, thus preventing the parasite from spreading through the blood. Another key finding of the study is the discovery of a new antibody which slows down the speed with which RH5 binds to red blood cells, giving antibodies that do block RH5 from binding more time to act. Researchers aim to use these findings to develop an improved RH5 vaccine that induces more of the effective antibodies.

A new civil society group, the Drug Transparency Observatory, has formed in France to monitor the French government’s implementation of a resolution on the transparency of medicines markets adopted at the World Health Assembly last month. A statement released by the new group calls on the French government and all countries to not only implement the adopted resolution, but also the transparency measures included in the initial resolution draft, which go beyond just medicines pricing to include disclosure of research and development costs. The statement noted that the Drug Transparency Observatory will monitor “the advancement on the implementation of the transparency resolution in pricing, clinical trials, research and development, marketing and patenting.”