amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Request for Proposals: Targeted Biomedical Research
Exploring the mechanisms for HIV persistence and the potential for HIV eradication
Deadline: CLOSED 

 

Available Support

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is pleased to announce the availability of targeted support for biomedical research projects relevant to exploring the mechanisms for HIV persistence and the potential for HIV eradication.

Funding will be available for:

Research Grants—$100,000 for direct costs plus up to 20 percent for indirect costs. The performance period for grants awarded under this RFP will be for one year starting November 1, 2011.

Fellowships—Each fellowship is funded for a total of up to $125,000: A maximum of $110,000 is allowed for project-specific direct costs ($45,000 per year for salary and fringe benefits and $20,000 over two years for laboratory supplies). It is expected that fellows will devote a minimum of 85 percent time and effort to the approved fellowship project. An additional $3,636 is provided to support attendance at amfAR-designated consultations for a direct cost maximum of $113,636. Institutional indirect costs may not exceed 10 percent of direct costs. The performance period for fellowships awarded under this RFP will be for two years starting November 1, 2011.

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Background and areas of interest

amfAR's research program is driven by the Foundation's mission to end the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research. amfAR plays a uniquely important role in AIDS research, identifying critical gaps in our knowledge of HIV and AIDS, and supporting groundbreaking studies that often lack the preliminary data required by more traditional funders. The Foundation's research program focuses on efforts to prevent HIV infection among vulnerable populations and to improve treatment, with the ultimate goal of eradicating the virus in people living with HIV infection.

This RFP solicits proposals relevant to exploring the mechanisms for HIV persistence and the potential for HIV eradication. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has significantly impacted the health of individuals infected with HIV-1. However, if therapy is interrupted, there is a rapid resumption of viral replication. Understanding the mechanisms by which the virus is able to persist in the face of therapy is necessary in order to identify strategies that may interrupt viral persistence and ultimately lead to viral eradication. amfAR wishes to support basic, clinical, and especially translational research exploring the mechanisms whereby HIV infection persists; the chronic nature of viral reservoirs and latency; and barriers to the eradication of HIV, with the potential goal of ultimately eliminating HIV infection.

Specific areas of interest include:

  • Novel strategies/approaches for preventing the establishment of, or eliminating, latent HIV virus
  • Understanding and characterizing cellular and tissue locations of reservoirs and their relative importance in maintaining infection in the face of ART and the immune system
  • Understanding the extent to which persistence is due to true latency versus low level replication. How does the effect of ART differ in each case?
  • Is there a threshold viral load below which infection will not be re-seeded?
  • Studies in elite controllers and/or acute (i.e. the absence of antibody positivity) infection cohorts that may help define new mechanisms of persistence that are not HLA-driven.
  • Does persistent immune activation point to a need for long-term immune reconstitution strategies? Are there benefits to immune suppressive therapy?
  • Improved assays to quantify integrated versus unintegrated DNA, or characterize replication competence. Do these differ between tissues, in patients treated during acute versus chronic infection, or in progressors versus controllers?
  • Improved assays to more efficiently and inexpensively measure extremely low viral load (e.g., to 0.01 copies/ml) or (changes in) the size of the persistent reservoir.
  • Deep sequencing approaches to compare viruses in different tissue compartments with those in plasma following treatment interruption, with a view to identifying sources of viral rebound
  • What are the consequences of chronic immune activation, in the presence or absence of ART, on tissues such as the gut, and can the damage be reversed if immune activation is controlled?

Definitions and exclusions:

Basic research
Applicants are encouraged to submit proposals using appropriate in vitro or ex-vivo techniques. In vitro experiments involving cells must use primary cell lines. Applications using tumor cell lines will not be considered. Attempts to validate existing in vitro or ex vivo models, and to develop new models, including animal systems, are also encouraged.

Pre-clinical research
Applicants proposing studies involving nonhuman primates are encouraged to apply.

Clinical research
Applicants who wish to use amfAR funding to conduct a discrete clinical research project, for example as a definable, distinct part of an ongoing clinical trial, should clearly describe how amfAR funding can support the entire discrete project for which funding is sought. Proposals for which amfAR funding will represent a small fraction of pooled resources (i.e., to "top up" total funding of a clinical research project) will not be considered.

Translational research
Applicants are especially encouraged to design research studies in which the findings from basic science can be quickly and efficiently applied to medical practice.  Such applications are likely to include multi-disciplinary collaboration and a description of the ways in which basic science findings generated with this funding can or will be tested (using this funding) in an appropriate non-human primate model or in patients.

Collaboration
In circumstances where collaboration between two principal investigators (PIs) working on distinct areas of a single research project might result in enhanced research productivity or significance, the combined scope of work may fall outside the $100,000 of a single research grant. In such instances, collaborating PIs may each submit a letter of intent (LOI) describing how their project would merit independent funding and the potential added value of funding both projects. The budget for each component could be up to $100,000 in direct costs plus not more than 20 percent in indirect costs. Collaborative proposals are NOT accepted from fellowship applicants.

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Qualifications:

Research Grants—Principal investigators for research grants must be faculty-level researchers affiliated with a nonprofit institution.

Fellowship Grants—amfAR fellowships are awarded to postdoctoral (M.D., Ph.D., or equivalent) investigators with limited experience in the field to advance a career in HIV/AIDS research. The applicant’s interest in a career in HIV/AIDS will be demonstrated by previous relevant work at the postdoctoral fellow or instructor level and will be carefully evaluated. The fellowship applicant must be mentored by an experienced investigator who: (a) is qualified to oversee the proposed research; (b) has successfully supervised postdoctoral fellows; and (c) is at the associate professor level or higher. amfAR fellows and mentors must be affiliated with the same nonprofit institution. See “Available Support” above for additional information.

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Types of Funding:

Research Grants—Research grants are given to nonprofit institutions worldwide to support investigator-led projects approved by the Foundation. In general, funds are applied to direct costs of salaries and fringe benefits for professional and technical personnel, laboratory supplies and equipment, travel, and the publication of findings. Research grants are awarded for one year without assurance of continued funding.

Fellowship Grants—Fellowship grants are applied to direct costs incurred in the course of an amfAR-approved research project. Allowed costs are limited to laboratory supplies, the fellow’s salary and fringe benefits, and costs incurred by participation in amfAR-designated consultations. Fellowships are awarded for two years and may not be renewed for additional funding.

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Submission Requirements and Deadlines

Interested applicants are required to submit a letter of intent (LOI) on amfAR-provided forms as described below.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: AUGUST 1, 2011, 5:00 PM EDT

Complete LOIs are submitted by e-mail to grantapps@amfar.org

Pre-Submission Requirements

Prior to submission all applicants should notify us of their intent to apply by sending an email to grants@amfar.org.

Please provide all of  the following in the body of the e-mail:

  • investigator’s or fellow’s name
  • mentor’s name (fellowship grants only)
  • institution
  • proposed project title

Please use the links below to download the LOI forms and instructions. Please read the instructions thoroughly as they contain all of the information necessary for the preparation and submission of an LOI.

Click on the links to download forms and instructions. Save or print the instructions. Save the LOI forms and instructions to your hard drive.

LOI INSTRUCTIONS (PDF)

LOI FORMS (DOC) 

Face Sheet: completed and signed by the fellow and fellowship mentor.

Abstract: no more than 200 words describing the proposed research plan.

Relevance Description: 200 words or less addressing the significance of the proposal to priorities in HIV/AIDS research.

Biographical Sketches of the applicant and mentor (if applicable).

Research Plan (submitted as a separate document): three single-spaced pages (one-inch margins, Times New Roman 12 point font) including background and rationale, preliminary studies, specific aims, experimental design, procedures, and data analysis to be used.

Please obtain the LOI INSTRUCTIONS for detailed directions.

Signed hard copies of the LOI face sheet are due no later August 5, 2011, 5:00 PM EDT

Important Notice
Electronic (e-mailed) LOIs that are received late, are incomplete, or exceed page limitations (please see instructions for details) will not be accepted for review. Fax submissions are not accepted. Deadline extensions are not available

Submission of an LOI is not a guarantee of eligibility to submit a full application. The pre-application process is highly competitive. Only a limited number of investigators submitting an LOI will be invited to submit a full application.

Other Important Dates

Applications solicited
August 22, 2011 (tentative)

Applications due
September 15, 2011 (tentative)

Funding decisions announced
October 2011 (tentative)

Future requests for proposals:
Click here to sign up for e-mailed Grant Opportunity announcements.

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Policies and Conditions

To Whom Grants Are Made
Grants and fellowships are awarded to nonprofit institutions; they are not awarded to individual investigators. Accordingly, an application, if solicited, must bear the signature of an official authorized to sign for the institution and, if requested, the applicant institution must submit proof of its nonprofit status. Applications are neither requested nor accepted from for-profit entities. Institution endorsement is not required for Letters of Intent.

By accepting an amfAR grant or fellowship, the recipient institution will accept full responsibility for the conduct of the investigation and for the acts of the investigator(s). Both are under the direction of the institution and are subject to its medical and scientific policies. Similarly, project personnel compensated in full or in part with funds awarded by the Foundation are employees of the recipient institution; they are not amfAR employees.

Applicants need not be U.S. citizens, and there are no restrictions as to age, color, creed, gender, medical condition, handicap, national origin, parental status, political affiliation, race, religion, marital status, or sexual orientation.

Members of the Foundation’s board of trustees are not eligible as investigators in Foundation-supported research. They may, however, sponsor fellowship applicants. Members of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) are eligible. Members of the board of trustees and SAC must comply with the Foundation’s policies regarding the avoidance of conflicts of interest.

Allowed Use of Funds
In general, a research grant is applied to direct costs of salaries for professional and technical personnel, laboratory supplies and equipment, travel, and the publication of findings.

An amfAR fellowship grant is applied to direct costs of the fellow’s supplies and salary and to transportation and lodging costs (pursuant to amfAR policies) for participation in amfAR-designated consultations (no additional travel costs may be included in a fellowship budget). It is required that the fellow devote at least 85 percent time and effort to the approved research project. Requests for salary support in excess of the current stipend levels set by the U.S. National Institutes of Health for the Kirchstein National Research Service Awards will be carefully evaluated and are subject to peer review and administrative approval. Support for indirect institutional costs is limited to a maximum of 10 percent of total direct costs.

Funds are not awarded for the following:

  • Major construction or the remodeling of facilities (minor alterations are allowed with adequate justification);
  • The direct cost of support services normally available at a sponsoring institution (e.g., telephone, office furniture, and supplies) except when directly allocable and essential to carrying out the proposed research;
  • The purchase, lease, rental, or servicing of office equipment;
  • Funding for dissertation research;
  • Indirect costs in excess of 20 percent for research grants or 10 percent for fellowships.

Indirect Costs—Foundation grants and fellowships are not meant to cover the total cost of a proposed research project.  A grantee institution is expected to provide the necessary physical facilities and administrative services, as well as other supporting services normally available at a sponsoring institution.  Expenses generally considered to be indirect costs may be budgeted as direct costs only when required for the operation of remote sites deemed necessary and leased or rented exclusively for conduct of the funded research.  Such requests will be carefully assessed for appropriateness and are subject to peer review and administrative approval.  Because indirect costs are a function of direct costs, the budget for indirect costs may not be modified, and in no case will the Foundation reimburse any indirect costs beyond the stated 20 percent of direct cost expenditures for research grants and 10 percent for fellowships.

When an application for project support is submitted to amfAR and also to other grant making agencies, accepted support from the Foundation and from another agency cannot be in duplication.

Recipient institutions agree not to promote or engage in violence, terrorism, or the destruction of any state, and to take prudent measures to insure that they do not provide support through sub-grants or other financing to any entity that engages in those activities.

Restrictions on the Use of Funds Awarded to Foreign Organizations
Unless written authority is obtained in advance from amfAR, funds from grants awarded to organizations outside of the United States (U.S.) may not be used to support (a) services performed in the U.S., or (b) travel to or from the U.S. Authorization to use funds for such purposes may be obtained by providing either of the following sets of documentation: (1) a copy of U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form W-8EXP bearing a valid International Taxpayer Identification Number or Employer Identification Number and either (a) an IRS determination letter or (b) written opinion of U.S. counsel that the organization is described in IRS Code section 501(c)(3); (2) alternatively, an applicant organization in a country that benefits from an exemption under a tax treaty with the U.S. should provide (a) a completed copy of IRS form W-8BEN and (b) an affidavit stating the treaty provision under which benefits are claimed and asserting facts pertinent to the treaty provision (e.g., facts to establish that the organization would qualify under IRS code section 501(c)(3)).

Although these documents are not required for LOIs, applicants should anticipate and prepare for their submission as part of the application or award process.

Source of Funds
Funds available to the Foundation are obtained principally from private donations.

Review and Approval Process
amfAR intends to encourage and support HIV/AIDS research of the highest quality. Therefore, every properly prepared and submitted LOI or application received in response to an amfAR solicitation is peer-reviewed by members of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Each is subject to an overall conformance review by the Foundation staff. Those found to be inconsistent with the guidelines and instructions are eliminated at that time, and the investigator and the applicant institution’s grants official are notified. Applications are solicited from investigators and fellows whose letters of intent have been recommended by the Foundation’s SAC. Unsolicited applications are not accepted for consideration.

The SAC, a volunteer body of scientists who are experts in various fields of HIV/AIDS research, evaluates (1) the scientific merit of LOIs and applications; (2) the relevance of the research to the control of the epidemic or to the benefit of patients with AIDS or HIV/AIDS-related conditions; (3) the qualifications, experience, and productivity of the investigator/sponsor; (4) the facilities available; and (5) the likelihood of success. The SAC’s determinations are considered by the amfAR board of trustees, which holds the sole authority to approve project funding.

Submission of an LOI does not guarantee invitation to submit a complete application. The LOI process is very competitive and only a limited number of proposals are approved for additional review.

Written critiques are not available for LOIs.

Confidentiality
Throughout the review and award process, the Foundation respects the privacy of the applicant and endeavors to protect from disclosure any confidential or proprietary information contained in a submitted proposal. However, amfAR has in place no mechanisms to maintain or guarantee confidentiality and, as a not-for-profit corporation, lacks the financial resources to (1) institute such mechanisms or (2) accept liability for the disclosure of information. At the same time, the Foundation does not consider information on an application’s project description form (lay-language summary) to be confidential. That information may be made public as a description of the project being funded by amfAR. Submission of an application or LOI is deemed acceptance of these provisions.

Human and Animal Subjects / Biohazards
Applicants are required to submit documentation of institutional approvals for research involving human or animal subjects or the use or production of biohazards. Research activity may not begin, nor may expenditures be made, until such approvals are received and forwarded to amfAR. Although these approvals are not required at the LOI stage, investigators should prepare to submit them with full applications.

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