New amfAR Awards Give Boost to Promising Young HIV/AIDS Researchers

Latest round of Mathilde Krim Fellowships continues tradition of identifying and nurturing new scientific talent

NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 2017 --- amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announced on October 23rd the 2017 recipients of the Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research. Named in honor of amfAR Founding Chairman Dr. Mathilde Krim, the Krim Fellowship program supports bright young scientists seeking innovative solutions to HIV/AIDS.

The three Krim fellows – Daniela Monaco, Ph.D., at Emory University in Atlanta, GA; Gabriel Ozorowski, Ph.D., at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, CA; and Jonathan Richard, Ph.D., at the Université de Montréal, Centre de Recherche du CHUM in Montreal, Canada – will each be awarded $150,000 over two years.

“We are proud to continue the tradition of investing in promising young scientists as a means of securing and strengthening the future of HIV/AIDS research,” said amfAR Chief Executive Officer Kevin Robert Frost. “The caliber of this year’s Krim fellows reassures us that that future is in very capable hands.”

Deploying Nobel Prize-winning technology to develop new HIV treatments  

Working in the lab of mentor Dr. Andrew Ward, Dr. Gabriel Ozorowski is an expert in electron microscopy (EM) of viral proteins. Dr. Ozorowski plans to use an innovative technique called cryo-EM in the search for new antiretroviral drugs in a class called fusion inhibitors. Only one fusion inhibitor – initially characterized by amfAR-funded researcher Dr. Carl Wild – has ever been approved for use.  Cryo-EM, which reveals detailed structures of molecules by freezing them at -180 degrees Celsius, earned its inventors the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

With cryo-EM, Dr. Ozorowski is discovering previously unknown structures of Env, the viral protein that is the target of fusion inhibitors. Using algorithms to screen through thousands of small drug molecule libraries, Dr. Ozorowski hopes to identify those that are predicted to perturb the newly discovered Env structures in an effort to develop new fusion inhibitors.

Leveraging vaccine research to help cure HIV

Dr. Monaco plans to apply her expertise in the field of HIV evolution, combined with insights from vaccine development, to efforts to cure HIV. Working under the mentorship of Dr. Eric Hunter, Dr. Monaco plans to use blood samples gathered from HIV transmission events in Zambia to analyze the accumulation of HIV mutations before and after transmission to determine which parts of the virus are resistant to mutations. She hopes to exploit these vulnerabilities to target the cells of the viral reservoir.

Supporting multiple generations of talented researchers

Dr. Jonathan Richard is the recipient of the prestigious Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Award, and in only four years of postdoctoral work has co-authored an impressive 21 publications. Dr. Richard has identified two host proteins that enhance the killing mechanisms that natural killer cells—part of the body’s first line of defense against infection—use to destroy virally infected cells. He will explore the effects of boosting these host proteins to determine whether they can be used as part of a strategy to kill viral reservoir cells.

As a testament to the success of the Krim Fellowship program, Dr. Richard is working under the mentorship of Dr. Andres Finzi, himself a former Krim Fellow. And in a further indication of amfAR’s success in supporting generations of talented researchers, Dr. Finzi was mentored by eminent Harvard researcher Dr. Joseph Sodroski, who received one of amfAR’s first grants in 1986.

“It’s very gratifying to see how amfAR’s investments over three decades have nurtured the careers of many leading AIDS researchers,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR vice president and director of research. “Collectively, their work has led to important advances that have greatly expanded our understanding of HIV and helped bring us to the brink of a cure.”

The Krim Fellowships have committed more than $7.8 million since 2008 to support the development of outstanding young researchers who have demonstrated a commitment to preventing, treating and curing HIV/AIDS.

Click here for full descriptions of the 2017 Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research grants.  

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 more than $480 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 3,300 research teams worldwide.

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