In a new five-year program, nine universities will receive $70 million in U.S. government grants to research a cure for AIDS, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill receiving one of the first endowments.
UNC-Chapel Hill will get $32 million to research a cure, with the university's North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute managing the grant. More than a dozen research projects are planned, with attempts to discover how HIV remains virtually invisible inside the body as well as to identify treatments that can exterminate persistent infection. Animal models will be utilized first, with hopes of human testing to follow.
The $70 million effort is seen as a watershed moment in HIV science, as the majority of government funding for the disease goes to prevention and vaccination programs: $40 million to $60 million on AIDS cure research is spent annually, while $564 million is used for vaccine efforts. A whopping $24 billion is spent on all domestic and international AIDS programs, according to the AIDS Policy Project.
The university project, which has Merck as a private partner, demonstrates that “the [National Institute of Health] and the scientific community are saying that finding a cure for AIDS is a realistic goal and should be part of our plan of attack against the epidemic,” David Margolis, the UNC project's lead researcher, said in a statement.
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