A Rising Star in AIDS Research

At the first scientific session of the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Vancouver, July 19–22, amfAR grantee Dr. Nicolas Chomont gave an overview of cure research for an audience of some 6,000 conference delegates.  Dr. Chomont outlined the many reasons we need a cure for HIV, despite the success of antiretroviral therapy in treating the infection.

Drs. Nicolas Chomont (left) and Remi Fromentin in the Chomont lab at the University of Montreal

Drs. Nicolas Chomont (left) and Remi Fromentin in the Chomont lab
at the University of Montreal

He cited the difficulty of ensuring universal access to treatment, the toxicities associated with treatment, the cost of lifelong antiretroviral therapy, and the stigma associated with HIV infection. He also described the key challenges that stand in the way of a cure, such as understanding how the virus remains in a latent state, determining which tissues and cells it hides in, and discovering the safest and most effective mechanisms to induce either long-term control or elimination of the virus.

The prominent placement of a presentation on cure research during the conference’s opening scientific session reflects the growing focus and enthusiasm surrounding cure research among the scientific community. Dr. Chomont is among a new generation of scientists whose work is focused on understanding the barriers to curing HIV and how they might be overcome. Only 10 years ago, he received an amfAR fellowship to help him establish his career in the field of HIV research, working on the persistence of HIV in reservoirs of memory T cells and generating findings that landed in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine. His findings from that time are still regularly cited by many scientists in their own presentations and publications.

A couple of years after his amfAR fellowship ended, Dr. Chomont was awarded an amfAR grant to support his work on a group of proteins known as negative regulators, thought to be involved in maintaining HIV in a latent state. As his career advanced, it became clear to us that he would be well suited to lead a major project funded through the amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) and aimed at characterizing the various types of cells that persist during antiretroviral therapy, and under what circumstances, which he has been doing since 2013. Meanwhile, he is now helping to nurture the careers of other young AIDS researchers such as Dr. Remi Fromentin, another amfAR grantee and a postdoctoral fellow in the Chomont lab.

We congratulate Dr. Chomont on being invited to give a plenary talk at such a prestigious conference, and we look forward to future findings generated by Dr. Chomont and his colleagues. 

Dr. Johnston is vice president and director of research at amfAR.