Pharmacy researcher receives Gates grant to develop HIV-protective contraceptive

Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, works with second-year professional student pharmacist Jason Chau and research assistant Yudisthar Singh Bedi, MS, on designing the contraceptive that will protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted disease.

Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, works with second-year professional student pharmacist Jason Chau and research assistant Yudisthar Singh Bedi, MS, on designing the contraceptive that will protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted disease.

KINGSVILLE, Texas – Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, has received the Grand Challenge in Global Health award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a contraceptive that will protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Choudhury was one of 54 applicants selected among 1,700 total applications from across the globe.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Dr. Choudhury and her team toward the development of a product that will have an impact on the health of populations around the world,” said Allison Rice-Ficht, Ph.D., interim vice dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and interim vice president for research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “We encourage young talented scientists like Dr. Choudhury to turn basic scientific discoveries into life-saving therapies, further propelling Texas A&M as a national leader in translational research.”

Over the next several years, Choudhury and team will work toward creating a contraceptive that could protect against HIV, a disease that, according to the World Health Organization, affects more than 35 million people. If successful, the contraceptive could be producible large-scale and offer protection and prevention against a number of sexually transmitted diseases, while still guarding against pregnancy.

“It’s an honor to receive the award and also to work for the foundation’s humanitarian mission,” Choudhury said. “HIV is an overwhelming global health challenge and prevention is the best cure. Our project could ultimately save lives across the globe.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges.  Choudhury’s project is one of more than 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 grants announced this month by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Choudhury received an award from the Gates Foundation in 2011 to explore early epigenetic biomarkers in preeclampsia. The latest research is an extension of this work.

“Our first award focused on finding early epigenetic biomarkers for the prediction of preeclampsia,” Choudhury said. “We are currently investigating the reversal of those epigenetics biomarkers with several antioxidants. This latest project uses antioxidants in a novel polymer to safeguard against numerous sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.”

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