generationCURE Awards Inaugural Cure-Focused Research Grant
Dr. Brad Jones, assistant professor at George Washington University’s Research Center for the Cure and Eradication of HIVIn the fall of 2011, several young professionals came together to form generationCURE, a group of young people dedicated to supporting amfAR’s cure-focused research. This March, after raising over $210,000, the generationCURE Committee met to determine the recipient of an inaugural research grant of $180,000.
After reviewing promising proposals from several finalists—all young professionals themselves—the committee decided to fund a study led by Dr. Brad Jones, assistant professor at George Washington University’s Research Center for the Cure and Eradication of HIV, looking at whether a novel combination therapy can eradicate the latent reservoirs of HIV that present a major barrier to finding a cure.
"It’s a terrific honor to have our work recognized by generationCURE, and we will be working especially hard to deliver impactful results that are worthy of the effort they put into this unique fundraising initiative,” said Dr. Jones. “If successful, our work will set the stage for clinical testing of novel, potentially curative HIV therapeutics.”
While antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce active HIV to undetectable levels in the blood, it cannot reach dormant HIV hidden in cells, which can reactivate and replicate at any time. Dr. Jones’s team will employ a strategy known as “kick and kill” to attack this reservoir. Many researchers using the “kick and kill” approach have been challenged by the inability of their patients’ immune systems—specifically, the cytotoxic T cells (CTL)—to kill the cells infected with the reactivated virus.
Dr. Jones and his colleagues hope to overcome this challenge using a drug that increases the activity of a protein known as TLR2 (a TLR2 agonist). They have previously shown that the TLR-2 agonist can reactive—or “kick”—the latent HIV in infected cells, while simultaneously boosting the ability of a patient’s own CTL to kill those infected cells. Dr. Jones hopes that combining the drug with re-energized CTL will ultimately prove highly effective in eradicating the virus from infected individuals.
“This represents a milestone moment for generationCURE,” said John Cafarelli, national chair of generationCURE. “Since day one, we have made a commitment to support amfAR’s efforts to advance the research that will one day deliver a cure for HIV and to see our efforts finally come to fruition is truly inspiring. We are excited to learn more about Dr. Jones’ work and look forward to continuing to raise more funds to support our next cure-focused research grant.”
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