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AIDS Researcher Awarded $2.5 Million NIH Grant to Study How Body Suppresses HIV

October 1, 2004

Dr. Joseph McCune, who has been treating HIV/AIDS patients at San Francisco General Hospital since 1982 and directs a lab in the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, on Wednesday received a $2.5 million NIH grant to conduct "innovative medical research" that he hopes will lead to the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The five-year grant will provide McCune with $500,000 annually, which he plans to use to conduct basic research in immunology -- specifically, how the body is able to suppress HIV for years and "why that successful defense eventually breaks down," according to the Chronicle. Through his research, McCune hopes to discover information that could help in the development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine that would either protect against infection or allow HIV-positive individuals to remain healthy, the Chronicle reports. Previous attempts to develop a vaccine have failed because "[w]e need to understand how to aim a vaccine before we shoot," McCune said, the Chronicle reports. McCune is one of nine winners announced this year in the first group of recipients of the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, a new initiative that aims to "encourage bold, innovative ideas that ... would otherwise go unfunded" because they "carry a high risk of failure," according to the Chronicle. McCune said that the five-year grant provides researchers with enough time to "thoroughly explore new ideas," as smaller grants might "encourage innovation" but are not "sufficient" enough to "allow scientists to follow through on their hunches," the Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/30).

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