New amfAR Grants Support Next Generation of Scientists Pursuing Innovative Solutions to HIV/AIDS

Latest round of Mathilde Krim Fellowships continues tradition of nurturing promising talent with breakthrough potential

NEW YORK, Oct. 19, 2016 --- amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Wednesday announced the 2016 recipients of the Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research, an annual research initiative created to support bright young scientists seeking innovative solutions to HIV/AIDS.

The six Krim Fellows – Amy Chung, Ph.D., of the University of Melbourne, Australia; Daniela Fera, Ph.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital; Marit van Gils, Ph.D., of Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Judd Hultquist, Ph.D., and Anand Pai, Ph.D., of the J. David Gladstone Institute in San Francisco; and Daniel Rosenbloom, Ph.D., of Columbia University – will each be awarded approximately $150,000 over two years.

“This is an exceptionally talented group of young investigators,” said amfAR Chief Executive Officer Kevin Robert Frost. “At a time when research funding for young scientists is flatlining, we’re delighted to be able to support and advance the fresh and imaginative ideas they bring to the table.”

Harnessing the Power of Antibodies

During her postdoctoral training at the prestigious Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Dr. Chung won an impressive three fellowships to study HIV vaccines using a technique she developed called “Systems Serology.” Dr, Chung will use her Krim Fellowship to study the mechanisms by which different types of antibodies interact, with the aim of producing an effective HIV vaccine. 

Dr. Fera is an accomplished scientist and teacher who has won several awards for her work in structural biology during her postdoctoral training at Boston Children’s Hospital.  She will study the structure of a small number of antibodies that are able to “see” through HIV’s defensive shield via holes in its sugar, or glycan, coat by using long, finger-like extensions called CDR3. She will assess the significance of CD3 in targeting HIV as a potential tool in designing a better vaccine.

Dr. van Gils is undergoing her postdoctoral training under the mentorship of a former Mathilde Krim Fellow, Dr. Rogier Sanders, at the University of Amsterdam. Using a tool she developed in the laboratory, Dr. van Gils aims to determine whether B cells can be manipulated to produce more effective and broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV, which could further the pursuit of a vaccine and a cure for HIV.

Targeting Roadblocks to a Cure

Dr. Judd Hultquist takes a computational approach to studying viral dynamics. His research has earned him a lead author credit in the prestigious journal Nature and numerous awards, including the Gladstone Institutes Convergence Zone Postdoctoral Award of Excellence in Science. Using a novel system that he developed, Dr. Hultquist will investigate the role of a host protein called LEDGF in determining whether HIV becomes active or falls into a ‘sleeping,’ or latent, state. His research will increase our understanding of how latency is maintained and reversed in an effort to cure HIV.

Dr. Anand Pai’s groundbreaking postdoctoral work has garnered awards for Breakthrough Biomedical Research and an Early Career Research Excellence award from the Center for AIDS Research at UCSF. His lead author publications in the prestigious journal Cell, have led to a fundamentally different understanding of HIV latency. Dr. Pai’s work aims to inform future efforts to cure HIV through a “shock and kill” strategy. Specifically, he will investigate how the location of the integrated provirus along the human DNA strand contributes to the reluctance of the virus to reawaken in response to latency reversing agents (LRAs), the drugs used to “shock” HIV our of its dormant state.
 

A graduate of Harvard, Dr. Daniel Rosenbloom won the coveted Gates Grand Challenges Exploration award and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for his work on mechanisms of latency in HIV. Using his expertise in evolutionary mathematics, Dr. Rosenbloom will use an algorithm he developed to understand the relative contribution of various mechanisms HIV uses to persist in the body. Understanding the importance of these processes will help scientists determine which mechanisms must be interrupted to get to a cure.

“This is an extremely impressive group of young scientists,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR vice president and director of research. “Their varied backgrounds and collective talents are sure to invigorate the field of AIDS research, and I’ve no doubt each will make important contributions to the field as their careers evolve.”

Named in honor of amfAR’s Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim, the Krim Fellowships   have committed more than $7.4 million since 2008 to support the development of outstanding young researchers who have demonstrated a commitment to preventing, treating and curing HIV/AIDS.
 

About amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested $450 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 3,300 research teams worldwide. Learn more about amfAR at www.amfar.org.

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