amfAR is awarding new grants totaling $1.16 million to advance a pair of groundbreaking studies that are researching innovative ways to suppress HIV.
The funding arrives from the amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE), a grant program that fosters collaboration among teams of scientists.
Keith Jerome, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, Seattle, was awarded $344,000 for a project that aims to advance a gene therapy strategy for curing HIV. According to amfAR, Dr. Jerome’s team plans to compare which of 11 vectors delivers the gene-editing tools most effectively to the various specific tissues that are being targeted. These lead candidates will then be used in future studies of combination in vivo gene therapy interventions.
Dr. Jonathan Li of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston will be awarded a $815,000 grant. According to amfAR, Dr Li and his team will gather and analyze samples from a multinational post-treatment control (PTC) cohort and will be able to employ cutting-edge tools to investigate whether characteristics of the virus or immunologic responses can predict post-treatment control. Discovering what leads to post-treatment control in some people could help to achieve durable ART-free control in all people living with HIV.
PTCs are HIV-positive people who, unlike the majority of those living with HIV, are able to control their virus after stopping antiretroviral therapy. But discovering the mechanisms of this control has proven difficult, amfAR states, since the rarity of PTCs has so far precluded analysis of a sufficient number of samples.
Gene therapy has become one of the most promising interventions across all of biomedical science, but it also carries a number of risks and challenges when it comes to the HIV sphere. As amfAR notes, scientists need to find ways to improve the efficiency of appropriately altering DNA, effectively target the correct cells, and enable the therapy to safely persist long enough to have an effect.
As science advances, grants like these are making it possible for researchers to continue evolving the ever-growing world of medicine. Perhaps one day, these trials will lead to a cure.