Optimizing the use of HIV-drugs

Meet Professor Collen Masimirembwa, a former ISP student and leader of the formerly ISP supported research group in chemistry at the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) in Zimbabwe, an institute he also founded in 2002. ISP support to the group was concluded in 2021.

Professor Collen’s interest and passion for molecules started in high school and is based on the fact that chemistry and medicine can save lives.

Besides herb and drug interactions and DNA-testing, the main focus of Professor Collen’s research group is Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics – i.e. what the body does to medicine and how effective the medicine is going to be. This is being applied to TB, Malaria, HIV and Schistosomiasis drugs, as well as on cancer and vascular diseases.

Professor Collen and his group have discovered a genetic variance that is very common for African people, explaining why Africans show more side effects to anti HIV-drugs for example.

- We have developed a test that can be used to tailor make the medicine dose depending on the need of the patient, instead of just giving the standard dose to everyone. In this way the patients get the right dose and the high frequency and severity of side effects can be reduced.

The research group recently got funding from EDCTP (European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership) to expand the study of this test to cover 250 patients. They want to reproduce their previous results and show that African patients get more side effects because of overexposure when given the standard dose of the drugs.

- There is a huge need to optimize the use of these drugs. Most of them were discovered a long time ago, before knowledge on how to optimize them existed. The studies and testing of the medicine were also not done in Africa on the target population but in Western countries. And the standard dose of medicine is based on these studies.

Professor Collen’s passion for science is strongly linked to his passion to train young people in science.

- We focus on young people with the hope that they will participate and drive innovation forward and find the solution to these healthcare problems. Quite a number of students have graduated from ISP support. The support from ISP has also allowed other donors to support us and it also helps us deliver at the best of our ability. ISP is great in capacity building terms.

April 2014. Updated 2021

Last modified: 2023-09-14