Health/Fitness

Krim Fellowships Give $1M in Grants to HIV Biomedical Researchers

Monday Dec 30, 2013
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amfAR’s Mathilde Krim Fellowships search for innovative solutions to HIV/AIDS
amfAR’s Mathilde Krim Fellowships search for innovative solutions to HIV/AIDS  (Source:amfar.org)

As World AIDS Day approached this December, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announced their latest round of new grants, providing $1M to Mathilde Krim Fellowships in Basic Biomedical Research to find innovative solutions to HIV/AIDS.

"amfAR has always been a catalyst for groundbreaking studies that have the potential to transform HIV/AIDS research, and the Krim Fellowship program enables a new generation of researchers to make critical discoveries that advance our knowledge of the disease," said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost.

The six fellowship recipients -- Rafael Cubas, Ph.D., of Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute Florida, Port St. Lucie, FL; Dario Dilernia, Ph.D., of Emory University, Atlanta; Nuria Izquierdo-Userios, Ph.D., of AIDS Research Institute IrsiCaixa, Badalona, Spain; Kashif Sadiq, Ph.D., of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain; Damien Tully, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, Cambridge, MA; and Angela Wahl, Ph.D., of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- will each be awarded $150,000 over two years.

Dr. Tully will use his amfAR funding to study tissue from mouse models and recently infected people to better understand how the virus spreads once infection occurs. HIV is usually transmitted through mucosal membranes, such as at the vagina or rectum, but eventually the virus wreaks its havoc in the intestines. Tully will work with his mentor Dr. Todd Allen to understand the virus’ spread and evolution in the body that will yield vital information for the development of a vaccine and possibly a cure.

In an effort to determine which antibodies are best for building an effective HIV vaccine, Dr. Cubas will study a group of immune cells known as memory T follicular helper cells (Tfh) in HIV-positive individuals. In particular, Cubas plans to compare memory Tfh function to the ability to produce broadly neutralizing antibodies in slow progressors, or HIV-positive people whose immune systems are better at keeping the virus in check than most.

Dr. Angela Wahl plans to better understand how HIV is transmitted through breast milk. The use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV has virtually eliminated this mode of transmission in many parts of the world. But how HIV is transmitted through breast milk is still not fully understood. Wahl plans to study this and understand why breast milk inhibits HIV in the test tube but not when women breastfeed, with the goal ultimately of reducing the transmission of HIV to an infant from women who do not have access to antiretroviral therapy.

"We are confident that this group of talented scientists will unlock many findings that have the potential to benefit all people living with HIV, and we look forward to seeing how their studies progress," said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston.

Dr. Krim has been a leading advocate of increased support for AIDS research since the early days of the epidemic. The first fellowships in her name were awarded in January 2008. Since then, amfAR has committed $5.2 million to support the development of outstanding young researchers who have demonstrated a commitment to preventing, treating and curing HIV/AIDS.

For more information about amfAR’s Krim Fellowships, visit http://www.amfar.org/

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