Three research teams awarded $2 million each over four years to conduct basic, animal and clinical studies
NEW YORK, July 21, 2015 --- amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announced that three research teams have been awarded $2 million each to pursue a range of strategies aimed at curing HIV. The new grants are part of amfAR’s $100M Countdown to a Cure initiative, launched last year with the aim of discovering the scientific basis for a cure by 2020. Each project is designed to tackle the major impediment to curing HIV, namely the persistence of the virus despite anti-HIV drugs.
"At $2 million each, these new grants represent the continued expansion of amfAR’s investments in research to find a cure for AIDS, and they are among the largest grants we have ever awarded. They are a reflection of our optimism around cure research and our collective determination to invest $100 million over the next five years in order to develop the scientific basis of a cure for this disease," said amfAR Chief Executive Officer Kevin Robert Frost.
A team of researchers led by Dan Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, will investigate the ability of combinations of antibodies to specifically kill latently infected cells in the lab, in monkeys, and then in people. The researchers will test two promising antibodies alone and together, in combination with a newly described drug that can “shock” the virus out of latently infected cells and possibly enhance the ability of the antibodies to locate the infected cells.
Timothy Henrich, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues will pursue a novel intervention aimed at restoring normal immune function in people with HIV. The team will test whether the transplant drug, sirolimus, can increase the activity of beneficial components of the immune system while suppressing detrimental activity of other components. The team will thoroughly assess the drug’s activities before moving on to test the drug on persistent HIV reservoirs in people.
Using an approach that has already proved successful in cancer therapy, Sharon Lewin, FRACP, Ph.D., of the University of Melbourne, Australia, will explore whether drugs that block so-called immune checkpoints can also be effective against HIV. Researchers theorize that the immune system cannot eliminate infected cells because of immune checkpoints, a set of mechanisms that limit the duration of an immune response so that the immune system does not become exhausted. Dr. Lewin and her team will test two drugs, alone and together, for their ability to reverse immune exhaustion and restore the ability of the immune system to eliminate infected cells.
“These four-year grants are a departure for amfAR and an important pillar of our cure research strategy,” said Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., amfAR vice president and director of research. “They allow teams of leading researchers to take their ideas across the research continuum—from lab studies to human trials. We’ll be following their progress with great interest.”