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VMRAF grant for Burnet project to support women's sexual and reproductive health

  • 20 Jun 2023
Gilda Tachedjian L7 LAB5 0094 1380X660

A Burnet Institute project to support women’s sexual and reproductive health through targeting bacterial vaginosis and its recurrence has been awarded a grant from the Victorian Government’s Victorian Medical Research Acceleration Fund (VMRAF).

The research, led by Professor Gilda Tachedjian, Burnet Institute Group Head, Retroviral Biology and Antivirals Laboratory, focuses on the development of a novel bioactive to optimise the vaginal microbiome.

The work builds on earlier discoveries from Professor Tachedjian’s team and collaborators that lactic acid, a bioactive product produced by beneficial vaginal microbiota, has properties that could target bacterial vaginosis (BV).

“Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common clinical manifestation of a non-optimal vaginal microbiome and increases the risk of adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes in women,” Professor Tachedjian said.

“Lactic acid selectively kills BV-associated bacteria, decreases vaginal inflammation, and strengthens the vaginal epithelial barrier, however, high-quality data in women is lacking.

“The study aims to accelerate the evaluation of custom-made vaginal gels to validate lactic acid as an active pharmaceutical agent in a randomised, placebo-controlled study in women with BV.”

BV is estimated to affect 30 percent of women of reproductive age globally, and 20-30 percent of indigenous Australian women.

There is an unmet need for effective non-antibiotic-based strategies to target BV and its impacts that include increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and spontaneous preterm birth.

“There are no effective therapeutics for preventing BV recurrence,” Professor Tachedjian said.

“Establishing if our gels target BV will have significant health benefits for women who suffer from this condition due to its high recurrence rate and associated adverse effects.”

Professor Tachedjian said the preclinical development of a novel bioactive product supported by the VMRAF would be a major success for the Victorian sexual health sector.

“Bringing the health care, medical research, and manufacturing sectors together would create a hub of activity in sexual health product development and provide health benefits to women in Victoria and beyond,” she said.

“Our goal to transform women’s sexual and reproductive health aligns with the Victorian government’s recent commitment to establish 20 comprehensive women’s health clinics across the state.”

A collaboration between Burnet, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (Alfred Health) and Syntro Health, the project is one of 23 being funded through the VMRAF which has invested more than $18 million to support more than 100 innovative research projects since 2017.