College of Pharmacy Professor Receives Gates Foundation Subaward for Pharmacokinetic Modeling in HIV Study


ATLANTA – Dr. Rebecca Burns, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences and director of the Center for Pharmacometrics at Mercer University's College of Pharmacy, has received a subaward from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johns Hopkins University.

The subaward, in the amount of $108,479, is for a project titled “Pharmacostatistical Modeling and Simulation of Randomized/Clinical PrEP Trials.”

The two-year award supports research related to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against the human immunodeficiency (HIV) virus, which causes AIDS.This project assesses the pre-exposure prophylaxis antiretroviral agent tenofovir in individuals who do not have HIV/AIDS but may be at risk of contracting it.

A key factor in the success of preventing HIV contraction is the levels of tenofovir in the body. This project will use data acquired from multiple clinical trials to develop pharmacokinetic models that describe the relationship between administration of tenofovir and actual levels of the drug in the blood, specific blood cells that become infected with HIV and other tissues.

The resulting models that Dr. Burns' team develops will be used by collaborators at Johns Hopkins and the University of California, San Francisco to create a clinical decision tool that may be used to improve PrEP success.

“This subaward represents very important HIV research with a goal to reduce new infections. I am quite pleased with Dr. Burns' mathematical modeling in this HIV study, which has the potential to save millions of lives,” said Dr. H.W. “Ted” Matthews, dean of the College of Pharmacy and senior vice president of health sciences at Mercer.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 35 million people worldwide live with HIV/AIDS, and in 2013, there were nearly 2 million newly infected patients worldwide. Pre-exposure prophylaxis of patients at high risk of contracting the virus has the potential to significantly reduce these new infections.

About the College of Pharmacy

Mercer University's College of Pharmacy is ranked No. 4 among pharmacy programs at private institutions in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. The College offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.). Founded in 1903 as the independent Southern School of Pharmacy, the school merged with Mercer University in 1959 and in 1981 became the first school in the Southeast to offer the Doctor of Pharmacy degree as its sole professional degree. In 1988, the College launched its graduate program, offering the Ph.D. degree in pharmaceutical sciences. The College is one of four health sciences units within the Mercer Health Sciences Center. With an enrollment today of more than 650 students and a distinguished faculty of basic scientists and clinicians, the College of Pharmacy houses seven centers focusing on research, teaching and learning. The College's motto, “A Tradition of Excellence – A Legacy of Caring,” frames its philosophy of providing excellent academic programs in an environment where every student matters and every person counts. For more information about the College, call (678) 547-6244 or visit