Dr. Maria Salgado, a researcher from the Institut de Recerca de la Sida (IrsiCaixa) in Barcelona, Spain, was presented with the inaugural Dominique Dormont Award during the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris, July 26. The $5,000 prize supports young researchers working on chronic conditions, with a particular focus on the interface between HIV and other chronic diseases.
Dr. Salgado is a member of IciStem, a consortium of European researchers that is investigating the potential for curing HIV by stem cell transplantation. IciStem was created and is funded by amfAR through its Countdown to a Cure for AIDS initiative. The consortium, led by Dr. Javier Martínez-Picado of IrsiCaixa and Dr. Annmarie Wensing of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, aims to replicate the case of Timothy Brown, “the Berlin patient,”—the first and only person to be cured of HIV. Mr. Brown, who had HIV and leukemia, was given a stem cell transplant in 2008 from a donor with a rare genetic mutation called CCR5-delta32, which confers resistance to HIV infection. He was cured of both his leukemia and his HIV, and he remains virus-free to this day.
IciStem researchers are trying to determine the precise conditions, besides the CCR5-delta32 mutation, that contributed to Timothy Brown’s cure. Dr. Salgado’s presentation focused on six HIV-positive patients with life-threatening hematological conditions who more than two years ago received a stem cell transplantation without the CCR5-delta32 mutation. Five of them have reduced their HIV reservoir to undetectable levels.
“We cannot say that the virus has been eliminated until we stop antiretroviral treatment because HIV infects again when drugs disappear, but with current techniques we have not been able to find viral reservoirs in either blood or tissue,” said Dr. Salgado.
“We are proud of Dr. Salgado and the recognition her work has received with this prestigious award,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston. “The talented researchers of IciStem, exemplified by Dr. Salgado, are poised to make critical advances in our quest to transform a single cure into a cure for millions.”