amfAR Awards New Round of Mathilde Krim Fellowships for AIDS Research
Fellows Aim to Increase Understanding of HIV Transmission and Treatment Resistance
For Immediate Release
Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager
NEW YORK, January 7, 2010—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Wednesday announced the 2010 recipients of the Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research.
The three fellowship recipients—Reem Berro, Ph.D., of Weill Medical College in New York, NY; Xiuhua Dong, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, TX; and Thomas Gramberg, Ph.D., NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY—will be awarded $125,000 each to investigate the intricate interweaving of the virus with its host cells.
“These Mathilde Krim Fellows will give us new understanding of the delicate dance between HIV and the human body,” said Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., amfAR’s Vice President and Director of Research. “Understanding these interactions between the virus and the cell may hold the key to the development of drug treatments that are both more effective and less prone to resistance.”
Named in honor of amfAR’s founding chairman, Dr. Mathilde Krim, the Krim Fellowship program is an annual research initiative created to support bright young scientists seeking innovative prevention and treatment solutions to HIV/AIDS. Since the early days of the epidemic, Dr. Krim has been a leading advocate of increased support for AIDS research. The first fellowships in her name were awarded in January 2008.
“Despite the short history of the Mathilde Krim Fellowship program, our young scientists have had stunning success,” Johnston said. “We are confident this new cadre of researchers will continue this tradition by unlocking findings that have the potential to benefit all people living with HIV.”
More information about the 2010 fellowship recipients:
Reem Berro, Ph.D./Mentor: John Moore, Ph.D.
Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY
CCR5 heterogeneity and mechanisms of viral resistance to CCR5 inhibitors: One of the most recently approved classes of anti-HIVdrugs, the entry inhibitors, includes maraviroc, which can block a key receptor, CCR5, that HIV uses to enter cells. As with other antiretrovirals, HIV can develop resistance to these inhibitors, in this case by mutating at least two distinct regions in the outer proteins of the virus. Dr. Berro aims to study the extent to which CCR5 exists in different forms on the surface of vulnerable cells, and how the mutated virus may use these different forms of CCR5 to evade the drugs. Since the membrane of a cell contains lipids, she will also determine whether the lipid content in diverse regions of the cell surface affects the structure and usage of the various forms of CCR5.
Xiuhua Dong, M.D.,Ph.D./Mentor: Yuhmin Chook, Ph.D.
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, TX
Structural mechanisms for nuclear export of HIV-1 REV by CRM1: After infecting a cell, HIV makes copies of itself from its DNA located in the cell’s nucleus. For this process to be successful, the first viral products made must get out of the nucleus. This requires using normal cell proteins, one of which—CRM1—is the focus of Dr. Dong’s research. She is therefore interested in determining whether the way in which CRM1 binds to the virus is sufficiently distinct from healthy cell processes that a new antiretroviral drug could be developed.
Thomas Gramberg, Ph.D./Mentor: Nathaniel Landau, Ph.D.
NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY
Mechanisms of Vpx and Vpr targeted restriction factors: HIV makes a number of proteins that enable it to overcome natural antiviral defenses inside cells. Two of these proteins made by HIV-1 and its close relatives are Vpr and Vpx. Dr. Gramberg plans to use two different methods to identify which proteins in cells would normally have antiviral effects but are overcome by these two viral proteins. He will also identify which part of the replication cycle is targeted. These insights may provide new targets for antiviral drug development.
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $290 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.