A Joint Impact

Dr. Soumya Rahima Benhabbour is from the North African country of Morocco where, according to UNAIDS, there has been a 42 percent reduction in new HIV infections since 2010.

That’s good news to Benhabbour, whose dream is to empower women and those in greatest need.

“As a woman from Africa, I feel a connection to the women in Africa who account for over 75 percent of all women in the world who are at risk of contracting HIV and who currently live with HIV,” she says. “We have much to do to help them, and I believe we can do it.”

Since 2017, Benhabbour has been an assistant professor in the UNC & NC State University Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering and an adjunct professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Her research lab collaborates with experts in the fields of oncology and HIV to develop new devices and technologies that can be translated from the bench to the bedside and improve human health.

As a former UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy fellow, Benhabbour is confident that strong backing from the Eshelman Institute for Innovation will help generate future progress to profoundly impact women’s lives.

“I really believe the EII is unique in many ways,” Benhabbour says. “It provides support for faculty to explore beyond their thinking capacities and allows them to be true scientists where bold ideas are recognized as worth exploring and not rejected because they’re too premature or high-risk.”

“The EII has been the springboard of one of our most successful technologies,” she says. “And since we received the first seed funding from the EII when it was just an idea in 2016, we now have a startup company, Anelleo, Inc., and [National Institutes of Health] funding to advance this technology. Opportunities like this will continue to help me advance innovative and bold ideas to successful products.”

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit unceii.org/impact.

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