The National Institutes of Health has awarded approximately $53 million in annual funding over the next five years to 10 research organizations in a continued effort to find a cure for HIV.
The new awards for the Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research program, initiated in 2011, further expand the initiative’s 2016 renewal from six institutions to 10, and represent a funding increase of approximately 75%. Additionally, one of the new grants is focused specifically on HIV cure research in infants and children.
The Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication, or CARE, which will receive $5.2 million for each of the next five years, was one of the two original collaboratory programs funded since the beginning, along with UC San Francisco. CARE is led by Dr. David Margolis, professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, director of the UNC HIV Cure Center.
Since its inception in 2011, the Martin Delaney Collaboratory program has made important advances towards a cure for HIV. CARE will now expand its expertise and work toward a better understanding of persistent HIV infection, the discovery of novel approaches to disrupt HIV latency, methods to clear the HIV reservoir, and identification of strategies to control viral rebound.
“We will continue to pursue our central unifying hypothesis that reversing HIV latency will ultimately lead to eradication of persistent HIV infection,” Margolis said. “We will also pursue interventions to prevent rebound of viremia after interruption of antiretroviral therapy (ART), and we will leverage a broad portfolio of tools from both academic and industry partners, and apply new discoveries, demonstrating proof-of-concept for clinical initiatives.”
In collaboration with academic scientists and clinicians, industry investigators, and the community, UNC CARE plans to define new targets to destabilize proviral genomes that persist despite ART, define new approaches to block proviral establishment, develop and deploy new effectors to clear viral reservoirs, delineate effective strategies to prevent rebound viremia that might emanate from such reservoirs after ART is discontinued, and create bridges to the community to improve the understanding of and access to HIV cure research and clinical trials.
Last year, UNC CARE scientists and collaborators used a compound called AZD5582 to activate latently infected CD4+ T cells at impressive levels in blood and many different tissues with no or very little toxicity. Published in “Nature,” this work was accomplished in ART-suppressed mouse models with fully functioning human immune cells, the kind typically infected with HIV in humans. Importantly, this research was then extended in a longitudinal, multi-dose study at Emory University in ART-suppressed rhesus macaques infected with Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). A new compound like AZD5582, but designed for use in humans, is expected to enter clinical testing early next year via Qura Therapeutics, the public-private partnership between UNC-Chapel Hill and ViiV Healthcare. UNC CARE scientists will explore improved approaches to attack latently infected cells, and augment antiviral responses to clear residual virus infection in the next five years.
The Collaboratory program was named in honor of the late HIV/AIDS activist Martin Delaney, who served on The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’s AIDS Research Advisory Committee. The goal of the program is to expedite HIV cure research by bringing together researchers from multiple academic institutions, as well as the private sector, community and government partners to share common resources, data and methodologies. Together, collaborators coordinate complex research studies and mentor the next generation of HIV cure researchers.
NIAID and the National Institute of Mental Health are the original NIH funders of the Martin Delaney Collaboratories. Now, the program is also funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The renewed CARE collaboratory will feature leading HIV cure investigators from Duke, Emory, Oxford, Gladstone Institutes, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the Scripps Institute in Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as industry researchers at Qura, ViiV, Merck Research Laboratories, MacroGenics, Emmune and ImmunityBio.