Targeting a Cure for HIV/AIDS, amfAR Launches Groundbreaking Consortium
March 17, 2009 - Is a cure for HIV possible? And if so, how do we get there?
Placing the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS firmly at the center of its research efforts, amfAR has launched the Research Consortium for HIV Eradication (ARCHE), a new grant program supporting collaborative teams of biomedical researchers exploring the barriers to and potential for eradicating HIV infection.
With first-round funding of more than $1 million, ARCHE will support investigations in three broad research areas that are widely considered central to HIV eradication:
- The search for a sterilizing cure that would eliminate all HIV from the body;
- The search for a functional cure that would achieve permanent viral suppression without therapy; and
- The characterization of viral reservoirs, which would clarify how and where HIV remains dormant, beyond the reach of anti-HIV drugs but poised to grow at any moment. Achieving either a sterilizing or a functional cure requires understanding how HIV survives in dormancy and what can be done to address this.
“In the past, scientists have regarded talk of AIDS cures with suspicion,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR’s vice president and director of research. “But amfAR has never stopped supporting cutting-edge research into a cure—this is an area in which we have been a leader for many years. Now, in part because of findings generated with amfAR funding, the climate is beginning to change in AIDS research in terms of what is considered achievable.”
amfAR’s commitment to a cure for HIV/AIDS was echoed recently by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, which is responsible for the lion’s share of U.S. government AIDS research funding. Describing research towards a cure as “high risk but very high impact,” Dr. Fauci continued: “I feel strongly that this is a direction we should go, even though years ago this would have been unimaginable.”
amfAR’s ARCHE initiative departs from the Foundation’s traditional approach to funding research in several significant ways. Rather than supporting scientists working independently, the consortium will support collaborations involving at least two interrelated research projects conducted by at least two independent, faculty-level researchers. Grantees in each of the three major areas of investigation will also gather regularly to discuss their research with other teams. Recognizing the long-term commitment required for these complex investigations, amfAR has also designated ARCHE grants to be potentially renewable in subsequent years.
amfAR’s Goals: Treatment and Cure