Kenneth Palmer, a researcher at the University of Louisville and the Owensboro Cancer Research Program, is the senior author of a study published Monday by the National Academy of Sciences about how the HIV inhibitor can be produced cheaply in plants.
Plans call for the drug -- if it eventually wins approval from the Food and Drug Administration -- to be grown in a form of tobacco plants patented by Kentucky BioProcessing in Owensboro and produced by KBP.
Palmer said Monday that the product, which uses the protein griffithsin, is believed to prevent the spread of HIV during sex.
Palmer said the idea is to keep the price of each dose of the product at roughly the same price as a condom. He predicted that sales could eventually equal those of condoms.
Hugh Haydon, chairman of Kentucky BioProcessing, said the company will have to go through the regulatory process to gain approval to grow the plants with the drug in fields rather than greenhouses. If all goes well, he said, all three phases of clinical trials could be completed in five to six years.