Left to right: Panel moderator Dr. Jeffrey Laurence with Drs. Eric Arts of Western University, London, Ontario, Jerome Zack of UCLA, and Lars Østergaard of Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.
“We’ve moved into an age where the research is now no longer a problem of discovery but is a technological problem,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost in his opening remarks at the inaugural amfAR HIV Cure Summit at the New York Academy of Sciences, November 17. The summit drew leading amfAR-funded HIV cure researchers to present updates on their progress.
Four researchers discussed their work in the context of the major scientific and technological challenges that need to be overcome to achieve a cure.
Dr. Paula Cannon of the University of Southern California talked about her work on viral reservoirs—pockets of latent virus that lie beyond the reach of antiretroviral therapy—in the brain. Determining the precise locations of these reservoirs is a critical prerequisite for a cure.
Dr. Eileen Scully of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital reported on her investigation of sex-based differences in reservoir size and the potential for these differences to affect the way HIV might be cured.
Dr. Timothy Henrich of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston discussed the need to develop more sensitive techniques for detecting and recording the amount of virus in the reservoirs. Accurately measuring the amount of virus in the body is central to determining the efficacy of future cure strategies and, ultimately, confirming if an individual is free of HIV.
And Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California-San Francisco reviewed the various strategies that are being pursued to eliminate viral reservoirs, such as “shock and kill,” which involves reactivating the virus so it can be destroyed; therapeutic vaccines and other immune-based strategies; and gene and cell therapy.
In an afternoon panel discussion, Drs. Lars Østergaard of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, Eric Arts of Western University, London, Ontario, and Jerome Zack of the University of California-Los Angeles further discussed the pharmacologic, immunologic, and genetic approaches to curing HIV. The panel was moderated by amfAR’s senior scientific consultant, Dr. Jeffrey Laurence.