By Adrienne Moore

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — New grant money is helping researchers at Sacramento State help in the fight against HIV.

The four-year, $425,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health was awarded to the school to bolster its ongoing work in the field.

“I think it’s really important to have as many different ways of combating this virus as possible,” said chemistry professor Katherine McReynolds.

The tiny particles don’t look like much, but they’re packing a big punch in the fight against HIV.

“We’re developing new molecules that can serve as preventative agents against the sexual transmission of HIV,” she said.

She’s heading a team of five undergraduate and two graduate students who are trying to develop a topical agent that creates a barrier between the cell and the virus.

Chemistry major Cory Vierra calls it a potential game changer.

“Our compounds are all based on ideas if we can keep a virus from going into a cell, therefore the cell is not infected. So, by stopping it at that point in the life cycle in the cell, or the lifecycle of the virus actually, then we never have to worry about treating the person,” Vierra said.

And with more than 1.2 million people across the country living with HIV, a large group of people could someday benefit, says Grace Paragas. 

“That could have a great impact on inhibiting the number of new infections every year,” she said.

That effort got a financial boost from the grant that will help the team publish its work more widely and add more researchers.

“Ultimately once we find something that works really well and has no toxicity, then what would happen is that it would have to be formulated into a gel form,” McReynolds said.

It’s the first time the school has been awarded a grant like this, and the team says there’s still fine tuning to be done. They hope to move on to clinical trials sometime soon so they can take their project to the next level.

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