12 January 2021 | Press releases

Unitaid funding sees launch of world’s first long-acting medicines centre at University of Liverpool

Geneva – Efforts to revolutionise treatments for debilitating infectious diseases have been amplified today with the launch of a new research centre at the University of Liverpool.

Established as part of a US$40 million international research consortium, primarily funded by Unitaid, the University of Liverpool’s Centre of Excellence for Long-acting Therapeutics (CELT) will be the first of its kind in the world.

By repurposing existing medicines into slow-release formulations, where drug effectiveness can be sustained over several months, ‘long-acting’ technology has already been successfully implemented in the fields of contraception and schizophrenia.

It now has the potential to improve the outcomes for treatment and prevention of deadly diseases such as HIV, malaria, Hepatitis C and tuberculosis, which particularly impact low- and middle-income countries.

Current treatment courses for these conditions have often resulted in poor outcomes in low-resource environments, as those living with diseases struggle with regimens that can involve taking dozens of tablets every day and rely on regular access to healthcare settings.

CELT’s mission is to broaden knowledge of long-acting medicines and disseminate key research, with the aim of revolutionising how these devastating diseases are treated, particularly in countries where access to healthcare is challenging.

The work will be conducted out of two state-of-the-art laboratories at the University of Liverpool, where the development of long-acting formulations for malaria and TB prevention, as well as a single-injection cure for hepatitis C, is already under way as part of the Unitaid-funded LONGEVITY project. In the case of malaria prevention, for example, the aim is to cover an individual for the entire malaria season with just one injection.

Meanwhile, by facilitating collaboration between scientists from the fields of pharmacology and materials chemistry, as well as global partners, CELT will ensure that the long-acting medicines are carefully designed with the specific needs of affected communities in mind.

Other projects focus on helping researchers understand better the key success factors for oral, injectable and implantable long-acting approaches.

Unitaid’s Executive Director Dr Philippe Duneton said: “Decades ago, long-acting products revolutionised fields such as schizophrenia and contraception. Today, our goal is to apply similar innovation to bolster global efforts to tackle – and even eliminate – major diseases affecting low- and middle-income countries, including HIV/AIDS. The pipeline of new long-acting products is promising. As a funder of catalytic health interventions, we are excited and inspired to be supporting the University of Liverpool, and other partners, that are blazing a trail in that regard.”

Co-director of CELT, Professor Andrew Owen, said: “Long-acting drug delivery promises to transform patient management, with huge potential impact for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Benefits for efficacy flow from overcoming issues associated with patients sometimes not taking their medication, which may also help reduce emergence of antimicrobial resistance. CELT harnesses the power of local, national and international collaboration to accelerate understanding of the medicines of the future.”


Media contact: Charlotte Baker | +44 7904 460 181 | bakerc@unitaid.who.int

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