The funding will support up to a 10-year extension of Sinko's continuing research into nanotechnology-based, targeted drug delivery for the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Sinko, chair of the department of pharmaceutics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and his team are working to develop drug delivery systems to treat HIV-infected cells, and to assist the delivery of potent anti-HIV drugs to areas of the body that are typically difficult to access, such as the brain.
A limited number of the NIH MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) awards are made to investigators who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity in their research and are likely to do so in the future. Fewer than 5 percent of NIH grantees receive these awards.
Sinko has just completed four years of research supported by a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the NIH. The $1.7 million MERIT award will now extend support of his research for five years. The grant is also potentially renewable for another five years with additional funding.
"Receiving a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health represents an extraordinary level of scientific recognition and a confirmation of the importance of this innovative research," said John Colaizzi, dean of the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy.
Sinko's delivery systems use nanocarriers – miniscule biological "capsules" whose size is measured in billionths of a meter – to deliver molecules of a drug directly to a target site. The drug molecules arrive intact and undiluted, without affecting or being affected by tissues they might contact on their journey. This approach is known as "biopharmaceutical targeting."
"Drug delivery technologies using biomaterials have been used effectively in patients to enhance the pharmacological activity of drugs other than those that treat AIDS," Sinko said.
"Surprisingly, there are very few biopharmaceutical targeting efforts being undertaken to improve the treatment of HIV infection, even though there is clinical proof that reductions in the dose and frequency of this system result in reduced side effects and better therapeutic outcomes," he added.
With this new long-term federal funding in place, Sinko and his Rutgers research collaborators, Stanley Stein and Xaioping Zhang, can concentrate on the design, development and testing of novel anti-HIV drug delivery systems.
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