Emory Receives $28.5 Million NIH Grant for “Innovative HIV/AIDS Vaccine and Cure Research”

June 9, 2022

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Lisa Newbern

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The National Institutes of Health has once again recognized Emory University's expertise in HIV/AIDS vaccine and cure research, and awarded the university $28.5 million over the next five years to conduct research toward the prevention and cure of HIV.

More than 20 researchers across seven institutions are collaborating as part of the new Consortium for Innovative HIV/AIDS Vaccine and Cure Research in Nonhuman Primates. Together, the researchers will establish an integrated program using state-of-the-art techniques and analyses to determine how a combination vaccine, consisting of viral vectors and proteins, will protect against HIV infection. Through these efforts, the research team will identify how different arms of the immune system, especially killer T cells and antibodies, work together. The team will also explore approaches to eliminate latently infected cells by combining the vaccine with compounds that induce virus expression and production in order to advance HIV cure research.

The consortium co-leaders are Rama Amara, PhD, and Eric Hunter, PhD. Amara is a core researcher in the Division of Microbiology and Immunology at the Emory National Primate Research Center (EPC), a researcher at the Emory Vaccine Center (EVC) and a Charles Howard Candler Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Emory School of Medicine (SOM). Hunter is a researcher at the EPC and EVC, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Emory SOM and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

"The consortium brings together an interdisciplinary mix of highly collaborative and productive investigators who represent a comprehensive range of HIV vaccine and cure disciplines," says Amara. "We are grateful for the confidence NIH has in our team, excited to further our research to end HIV/AIDS and committed to improving the lives of the 38 million people worldwide who live with the disease."

In addition to Amara and Hunter, Emory researchers contributing to the consortium are: Steven Bosinger, PhD, Ann Chahroudi, MD, PhD, Paul Johnson, MD, Rui Kong, PhD, Deanna Kulpa, PhD, Maud Mavigner, PhD, Zhaohui (Steve) Qin, PhD, Philip Santangelo, PhD, Rafick Sekaly, PhD, Guido Silvestri, MD, Jeffrey Tomalka, PhD, and Jens Wrammert, PhD. Collaborating institutions are the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Louisiana State University, Stanford University, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and University of Pennsylvania.

"We have a solid foundation of expertise and scientific advancements supporting our pursuit of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection and a cure for the disease," says consortium co-director Hunter. "The resources available at Emory, including the nonhuman primates at the Emory Primate Center, are critical for determining the effectiveness of AIDS vaccines, evaluating other cure strategies, reducing viral reservoirs, controlling viral replication and, ultimately, ending the long-lived AIDS pandemic."

In addition to the EPC and the EVC, Emory is home to the Center for AIDS Research. The university is recognized for developing HIV vaccine candidates and treatments, such as Emtriva, which more than 90 percent of U.S. patients who have HIV take. Emory also conducts research with nonhuman primates to improve human and animal health, and leads clinical trials.

The NIH award number for the Consortium for Innovative HIV/AIDS Vaccine and Cure Research is 1UM1AI169662-01.

The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include the Emory University School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. Emory Healthcare includes: The Emory Clinic, Emory-Children's Center, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, Wesley Woods Center, and Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.5 billion budget, 17,600 employees, 2,500 full-time and 1,500 affiliated faculty, 4,700 students and trainees, and a $5.7 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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