National Institutes of Health Awards $30 Million for HIV Cure

New initiative supports several research collaborations to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

The National Institutes of Health awarded about $30 million in annual funding over the next 5 years to 6 research collaborations working to make advancements towards an HIV cure.

The awards are part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to invest in research for an HIV cure, and comprise the second iteration of the Martin Delaney Collaboratory: Towards an HIV-1 Cure program.

“The 2 greatest challenges remaining in HIV/AIDS research are finding a cure and developing a safe and effective preventive vaccine,” said Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). “This year, NIAID has made significant investments toward both of these critical goals. A simple, safe and scalable cure for HIV would accelerate profess toward ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Through leadership of talented investigators with a diversity of expertise, the Martin Delaney Collaboratory program will accelerate progress in this key research endeavor.”

There have been advances in treating HIV/AIDS, such as antiretroviral therapy (ART), which has shifted HIV from a life-threatening disease to a manageable, chronic condition; however, there is still no cure. This is largely due to the ability of the virus to establish a reservoir in the body, never allowing treatment to fully clear the virus.

In 2010, the Martin Delaney Collaboratory program was established by the NIAID in memory of activist Martin Delaney, who served on the NIAID AIDS Research Advisory Committee. The program supports international HIV cure research networks and also encourages collaborative efforts to help address HIV.

Since the first 3 grants were awarded, the Martin Delaney Collaboratory program has grown to include more industry partners and grants, with an increased emphasis on translational and clinical research.

The new collaborator projects will launch strategies for novel investigations into HIV cure that will include gene modification, therapeutic vaccines, and immunotherapy. Researchers will utilize different experimental techniques to help coax HIV out of the reservoir and kill the virus.

These strategies will include testing latency-reversing agents both alone and in combination, optimizing combinations of anti-HIV antibodies and other immunotherapeutic drugs, and genetically engineering immune cells to better target latently infected cells.

All of the principal investigators’ institutions are in the United States, however, the collaborative projects will involve laboratories in 5 continents, including Africa.