Faculty Impact: Dr. Mahua Choudhury

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The Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy was a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mahua Choudhury, Ph.D., assistant professor at the College, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, “Flavonoid antioxidant embedded solid hydropolymer condom.”

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in solving persistent global health and development challenges. Choudhury’s project is one of over 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 12 grants announced in the summer of 2014 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Choudhury plans to create a contraceptive that will protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Choudhury was one of 54 applicants selected among 1,700 total applications from across the globe.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for Dr. Choudhury and her team toward the development of a product that will have an impact on the health of populations around the world,” said Allison Rice-Ficht, Ph.D., interim vice dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy and interim vice president for research at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. “We encourage young talented scientists like Dr. Choudhury to turn basic scientific discoveries into life-saving therapies, further propelling Texas A&M as a national leader in translational research.”

Over the next several years, Choudhury and her team will work toward creating a contraceptive that could protect against HIV, a disease that, according to the World Health Organization, affects more than 35 million people. If successful, the contraceptive could be producible large-scale and offer protection and prevention against a number of sexually transmitted diseases while still guarding against pregnancy.

Choudhury is developing safe and effective male and female condoms from hydrogel – the same type of material contact lenses are made of – that can protect against STD transmission and unwanted pregnancies and, when embedded with a special antioxidant, delivers built-in lubrication to enhance sexual experience.

“Latex can be uncomfortable and sometimes cause allergic reactions,” Choudhury said. “The antioxidant we use in this product should increase the sensitivity for men and women and be allergen safe.”

Choudhury created the hydrogel material for the condoms as proposed in early 2014. Her team is currently testing the mechanical strength of the hydrogel and characterizing the mechanical properties of hydrogel construct.

“It’s an honor to receive the award and also to work for the foundation’s humanitarian mission,” Choudhury said. “HIV is an overwhelming global health challenge and prevention is the best cure. Our project could ultimately save lives across the globe.”

Choudhury received an award from the Gates Foundation in 2011 to explore early epigenetic biomarkers in preeclampsia. The latest research is an extension of this work.

“Our first award focused on finding early epigenetic biomarkers for the prediction of preeclampsia,” Choudhury said. “We are currently investigating the reversal of those epigenetics biomarkers with several antioxidants. This latest project uses antioxidants in a novel polymer to safeguard against numerous sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.”