July 11, 2011
Three research teams focused on developing strategies that could help to rid the body of HIV are receiving grants totaling more than $14 million a year, for up to five years, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health announced today.
The grants are part of the Martin Delaney Collaboratory, a funding opportunity designed to foster public-private partnerships to accelerate progress toward an HIV cure. Delaney, an influential AIDS activist, died of liver cancer in 2009.
Although antiretroviral therapy enables many people infected with HIV to effectively control their virus levels and thereby stay relatively healthy, some virus remains hidden in a latent or persistent form in cells and tissues where it is not susceptible to antiretrovirals. Each research team will pursue a unique and complementary approach aimed at eradicating these remaining HIV reservoirs. To fulfill their role as members of a collaboratory, the teams will also meet periodically as their research progresses to find ways to work together.
"Martin Delaney was a true hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and he believed, as we do, that progress toward a cure for HIV/AIDS can be made through partnerships among scientists in government, industry and academia," said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "These new grants, and the collaboratory to which they belong, are one way in which we honor his memory and advance his vision."
The research teams receiving the grants include the following:
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle, working with Sangamo Biosciences Inc., a biopharmaceutical company based in Richmond, Calif. -- In five projects led by co-principal investigators Keith R. Jerome, M.D., Ph.D., and Hans-Peter Kiem, M.D., of FHCRC, scientists will attempt to develop proteins that directly attack HIV reservoirs, and they also will study whether a patient?s immune cells can be made resistant to the virus. These approaches for eliminating the viral reservoirs will be further tested in a preclinical model. Five core facilities will be funded as well, to provide shared resources and support services to facilitate the collaborative projects. First-year funding is $4.1 million.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), working with Merck Research Laboratories, headquartered in Whitehouse Station, N.J. -- Led by principal investigator David Margolis, M.D., of UNC, this initiative consists of 15 scientific projects and four core facilities located at multiple universities nationwide. The researchers aim to enhance the understanding of how HIV persists in patients on antiretroviral therapy, and to develop small-molecule drug candidates and other therapies to target the viral reservoirs. First-year funding is $6.3 million.
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute of Florida (VGTI) in Port St. Lucie, Fla., also working with Merck Research Laboratories -- Led by co-principal investigators Steven Deeks, M.D., and Michael McCune, M.D., Ph.D., of UCSF, and Rafick-Pierre Sekaly, Ph.D., of VGTI, this research initiative comprises seven projects and three core facilities. The researchers seek to define the nature and location of the cells where HIV hides, better understand the immunology of how these viral reservoirs are created and maintained, and develop and test targeted treatments that eliminate HIV reservoirs without broadly activating the immune system. First-year funding is $4.2 million.
NIAID is providing primary funding for the grants. Additional funding comes from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), also part of NIH. Funding beyond the first year is subject to the availability of appropriations. Sangamo Biosciences and Merck Research Laboratories will not receive federal funds for their contribution to this research. For more information about NIAID HIV/AIDS research, visit NIAID's HIV/AIDS Web portal.