amfAR Consortium To Speed Search for HIV/AIDS Cure
Four teams of leading researchers receive amfAR funding to establish groundbreaking collaborative effort to pursue HIV eradication
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager, (212) 806-1602
NEW YORK, May 11, 2010—Placing the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS firmly at the center of its research efforts, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Tuesday announced the first round of grants to a consortium of leading researchers to develop strategies for eradicating HIV infection.
“amfAR has a long history of funding breakthrough research, and developing this consortium gives me great hope that we will catalyze the research for a cure for HIV/AIDS,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We believe that a collaborative research effort has the potential to dramatically accelerate the search for a cure.”
The initial round of funding for the newly constituted amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) includes projects in each of three areas that are widely considered central to HIV eradication:
- The search for a sterilizing cure that would eliminate all HIV from the body;
- The search for a functional cure that would achieve permanent viral suppression without therapy; and
- The characterization of viral reservoirs, the barrier that must be overcome to achieve a cure.
“There is a growing sense within the scientific community that the search for a cure for AIDS is ripe for a concerted research effort,” said Dr. Robert Siliciano, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University whose amfAR-funded study will focus on the potential to eradicate HIV. “We hope that both the research that our team will conduct, as well as this new collaborative research framework, will speed that process,” said Dr. Siliciano, who will collaborate with Dr. Janice Clements, also of Johns Hopkins University.
A series of studies to be undertaken by Dr. Sarah Palmer of the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and Karolinska Institutet will aim to determine which cellular reservoirs are most responsible for the persistence of HIV and the extent to which these reservoirs could be disrupted by anti-HIV drugs. Dr. Palmer will collaborate with Dr. Frederick Hecht.
Dr. Joseph McCune of the University of California, San Francisco, collaborating with Dr. Steven Deeks, will examine the role of ongoing activation of the immune system—long suspected of playing a role in HIV disease—in the ability of HIV to persist for the lifetime of an infected patient.
Dr. John Zaia of the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, in a study that delves deeper into the circumstances of a leukemia patient in Berlin who appears to have been cured of HIV, will examine the possibility that cancer chemotherapy can perturb reservoirs of HIV, a study that could provide clues for the development of therapeutic interventions to cure HIV.
“amfAR has a long and successful history of bringing people together to take on the big challenges of HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR’s vice president and director of research. “We’re tremendously excited by this consortium. And we’re confident that this collaborative approach will create a synergy that produces results that exceed what can be generated in individual laboratories.”
amfAR’s commitment to a cure for HIV/AIDS is consistent with comments recently made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, the lead agency on federally-supported AIDS research. Describing research towards a cure as “high risk but very high impact,” Dr. Fauci continued: “I feel strongly that this is a direction we should go, even though years ago this would have been unimaginable.”
Researchers supported by amfAR’s ARCHE initiative will gather regularly to discuss their progress. Recognizing the long-term commitment required for these complex investigations, amfAR has designated ARCHE grants to be potentially renewable in subsequent years.