The government has set aside Sh4.5 million to support the development and marketing of a locally invented HIV-killing gel.
In June, the Nation reported that the innovation by the Institute of Primate Research was headed for clinical human trials.
IPR director Hastings Ozwara said if the trials are successful, the gel would be the world’s first HIV-killing microbicide to be commercialised.
“We hope to get positive results from the trials as that will enable us move to the nest stage of the process, which is seeking official approval before the product is introduced to the market,” Dr Ozwara said.
Kenya National Innovation Agency acting chief executive Salome Guchu expressed confidence in the project.
“We are impressed by the pioneering commercialisation concept adopted by the IPR team and will support it,” Dr Guchu said.
Announcing the grant last week, Dr Guchu said the money would be used to enhance the project’s entrepreneurship capacity.
“The money will be used for purposes of developing the innovation into a viable business,” she said.
Dr Guchu added that the project that brings together members of academia, medical doctors, pharmaceutical industry workers and marketers is a unique experiment in Kenya and the region.
“This could provide a road map for turning thousands of innovations stacked in our laboratories into services and commercial products,” she said.
The gel called UniPron has the triple ability to kill HIV, immobilise sperms and act as a lubricant.
It has been under development for 11 years, costing approximately Sh200 million.
“As we pursue the rigorous requirements for an anti-HIV microbicide and contraceptive, we have already put some other lubricants in the market,” Dr Peter Mwethera, the principal innovator, said.
Working with a local pharmaceutical company, the team has manufactured and commercialised Smugel, a lubricating gel, and Smuscan, an ultrasound gel.
Smugel is used during sex, for lubricating surgical instruments and in medical procedures like childbirth and prostate cancer examination.
Smuscan, on the other hand, is a gel used in ultrasound scanning procedures.
Its local market value is estimated to be about Sh1.3 billion annually, largely served by imports.
Dr Mwethera said he and his team are selling the products to the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority and putting them in retail drug shops.
“We are also marketing them through women’s chamas and community groups. The feedback so far is encouraging,” Ms Gertrude Mungai, a lifestyle and relationship coach and a Smugel goodwill ambassador, told Sunday Nation.