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article imageAIDS research foundation backs new HIV projects

By Tim Sandle     Jun 3, 2016 in Science
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research has awarded grants totaling $1.4 million, designed to accelerate research efforts to eradicate HIV by exploring new dimensions in the field of HIV cure research. The awards have been split between seven scientists.
The new grants are part of amfAR’s $100 million research aims, which have received attention on social media as the "Countdown to a Cure" initiative. The objective is to discover the scientific basis for a cure for HIV infection by 2020. amfAR was established in 1985, with the sole aim of ending the global AIDS epidemic through supporting innovative research.
With the new multi-million dollar grants, these are channeled towards research that aims specifically to understand why HIV persists in the body despite effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) having been administered. Antiretroviral drugs work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage. On this, amfAR Chief Executive Officer Kevin Robert Frost stated: “As we continue to build the science around a cure, these research projects will fill some critical gaps in knowledge about the persistence of viral reservoirs, and will undoubtedly inform future clinical studies aimed at finding a cure for HIV."
The grants are going to research groups based in Canada and the U.S.: San Diego, CA; Montreal; Quebec; Cleveland; Atlanta, GA; and Baltimore, MD. Each of these research centers has been awarded close to $200,000 each.
One example is with biologist Dr. Andrés Finzi, from the Université de Montréal, Centre de Recherche du CHUM. Dr. Finzi has proposed a new strategy that explores the use of drugs with a human protein called CD4. This is with the intention of effectively destroying the HIV reservoir through an antibody-mediated attack. Dr. Finzi’s hopes that this process can add to a wider ‘shock and kill’ strategy aimed at curing HIV.
The other projects include developing alternative ways to enhance the effectiveness of latency reversing agents, and examining the mechanisms that explain the viral reservoir is maintained in the human body. Some of these are explained in the video below.
The "Countdown to a Cure" initiative has received celebrity endorsements from Hedi Klum and the current Miss Universe, as featured on the amfAR Twitter feed.
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