More than 500 scientists, clinicians and community advocates gathered at the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for three days of networking and information sharing on progress toward a cure for HIV, October 15–17. Titled “Strategies for an HIV Cure 2014,” the conference was sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The intensifying interest and participation in HIV cure research was evidenced by the doubling of attendance from when the meeting was first convened two years ago.
In addition to the record number of participants, the meeting was notable for a significant representation from drug, diagnostics and biotech companies, with nearly 20 companies and over 40 representatives present.
The NIH cure strategies meeting was initially launched as a forum for progress reports from the three research centers that make up the Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research, a special NIH-funded research collaboration that was set up in 2011 to honor the AIDS activist Martin Delaney, founder of Project Inform in San Francisco. The unique collaboration is centered around three research groups with each group focusing on a distinct piece of the cure puzzle.
defeatHIV (Delaney Cell and Genome Engineering Initiative)
Based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and led by Keith Jerome and Hans Peter Kiehm, this collaboration is focusing the bulk of its research efforts on genetic therapies aimed at both inactivating HIV DNA where it persists within cells and engineering HIV-resistant immune cells. This group is partnering with Sangamo Biosciences.
CARE (Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication)
This group is led by David Margolis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. CARE’s focus is on the reversal of HIV latency and the killing of infected cells and it is working in partnership with Merck Research Laboratories.
DARE (Delaney AIDS Research Enterprise)
The third collaboratory, based at the University of California, San Francisco, is led by Joseph Mike McCune, Steve Deeks and Rafick-Pierre Sékaly and is especially interested in the interactions between HIV and the immune system. The DARE group is also partnering with Merck.
The hope is that these discussions will stimulate new ideas for future research projects and lead to new scientific collaborations.