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Moji with drug dosages

As film on sabotage of AIDS drug debuts COP professor tells personal story

Posted: 01/31/2014
Nearly 20 years ago, Moji Adeyeye began research to develop a medicine to combat HIV and AIDS in children – an initiative that she believes was stalled at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa by drug companies that put patents and their profits-to-be-made first.

Now the Roosevelt University professor of pharmaceutics and chair of the Biopharmaceutical Sciences Department at the University’s College of Pharmacy in Schaumburg will share her experiences at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, immediately after the opening of the new documentary Fire in the Blood at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

A story of medicine, monopoly and malice, the Sundance film Fire in the Blood exposes how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs in Africa, according to a write up about the documentary. Adeyeye said this is a situation that she experienced during the mid-1990s as a young researcher in search of treatment for AIDS.

Long before she knew the kind of toll that AIDS would take on her own people in Nigeria as well as across the African continent, Adeyeye in the mid-1990s had begun research for more effective  medicine, using existing drugs as the base, that could combat HIV and AIDS in children.

A professor and researcher at the time at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Adeyeye needed considerable samples of existing AIDS drug ingredients in order to develop medicines in her own laboratory that could be more affordable to patients. She couldn’t obtain the samples, however, unless she signed an agreement that would have limited – and even ended – her research.
On the advice of the research office and attorneys, Adeyeye said  refused to sign, and as a result, her development of new, generic AIDS medications was  stalled until 2005 when legal issues regarding the patents for AIDS medications were settled by the World Trade Organization in favor of small, independent drug makers like Adeyeye.  By that time, millions of Africans, including poor women and children infected with HIV/AIDS had died.

“It broke my spirit and belief in our system,” said Adeyeye, who witnessed the suffering of thousands of Nigerians who had no access at all to AIDS medications.  “We were prevented from developing a drug that could help save lives and it turned my life upside down to see children die as a result of patent wars among the drug companies,” she said.

The Inverness, Ill., resident received a National Institutes of Health grant in 2006 while still at Duquesne University to do research on pediatric HIV/AIDS medications and she completed the development of two products in 2009. She then founded a small start-up company, Elim Pediatric Pharmaceuticals Inc. (EPPI).  The company, with part sponsorship from Roosevelt University, has completed the clinical trial, and has been advised by the FDA to submit an application for approval and registration of two drug products.

“The work of Dr. Adeyeye exemplifies the passion that many of our faculty members have about their research and the meaningful impact it can have on patients  locally and even globally,” said George MacKinnon III, founding dean of Roosevelt’s College of Pharmacy.

Adeyeye will discuss her personal story along with the film’s director, Dylan Mohan Gray, who will be available by Skype to discuss Fire in the Blood. The event will be moderated by David Ernesto Munar of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Last updated 01/09/2015