amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

amfAR Research Program–An Overview

Research Funding Cycles
Scientific Advisory Committee
Setting Research Priorities 


amfAR’s research program plays a vital role in AIDS research, identifying critical gaps in our knowledge of HIV/AIDS and supporting innovative studies that often lack the preliminary data required by more traditional funders. amfAR pursues an entrepreneurial research strategy, taking calculated risks by funding research projects with potentially significant payoffs.

In essence, the Foundation acts as a scientific venture capitalist, providing essential seed money that enables researchers to test the merits of new concepts or technologies and produce results that can then be validated more fully by large-scale studies such as those funded by the National Institutes of Health. In addition, amfAR’s nimble research funding process ensures that emerging opportunities can be seized on and pursued in a timelier manner than is possible for other AIDS research funders.

The amfAR research program is guided by the following principles and goals:

  • amfAR funds research that is likely to have a measurable effect on the epidemic—that is, research that has a realistic chance of improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS or vulnerable to HIV infection;
  • amfAR funds research that is not subject to the limitations imposed by other grant makers, such as those pertaining to early-stage projects, mainstream research agendas, or political, religious, or ideological pressures.
  • amfAR’s research program draws on a system of peer review; and
  • amfAR avoids all conflict of interest, whether real or perceived, in the awarding of research grants.
  • amfAR’s research program focuses particularly on two broad issues in HIV/AIDS research. Click on the links below to learn about our efforts on:
  • HIV prevention
  • treatments and a cure

Because the unresolved issues surrounding HIV/AIDS are complex and require a range of approaches to address them, amfAR funds researchers working in diverse spheres of HIV/AIDS research, including basic biomedical, preclinical, clinical, epidemiological, behavioral, social, policy, and ethics.

amfAR employs two main mechanisms of research funding: grants and scholar fellowships:

  • Grants are awarded to principal investigators who are faculty-level researchers affiliated with nonprofit institutions. Grant funding, which is awarded for one year, can cover salaries for professional and technical personnel, laboratory supplies and equipment, travel, and the publication of findings.
  • Fellowship grants are typically awarded to postdoctoral investigators under the mentorship of an experienced HIV/AIDS researcher. The goal of amfAR’s fellowship program is to encourage young investigators to pursue a career in HIV/AIDS research, thereby bringing new and innovative ideas to the field. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in activities intended to enhance their career development, such as grant-writing workshops and conferences.

Research Funding Cycles

amfAR announces the availability of research funding by issuing a request for proposals (RFP). An RFP specifies particular areas of HIV/AIDS research that amfAR has identified as especially pressing and in need of attention and resources. Researchers working at nonprofit institutions are encouraged to submit a letter of intent (LOI) that is responsive to the RFP. LOIs are peer-reviewed by members of amfAR’s scientific advisory committee (see below). Applicants submitting the best LOIs are then invited to submit a full application that describes, among other things, the intended research plan and potential benefits of the research.
One of the many advantages of amfAR’s research program is its quick turnaround time. amfAR researchers are typically funded within a couple of months of submitting an application. (By comparison, funding from the National Institutes of Health can take as many as 12 to18 months.) amfAR’s streamlined funding process means that our research program stays timely and relevant in a field where rapidly emerging research concepts and outcomes can change the research landscape in just a few months.

Click here for details of amfAR’s latest RFPs. 


Scientific Advisory Committee

To ensure that amfAR funds only the highest quality research projects, each letter of intent and each full application is reviewed by at least three members of amfAR’s scientific advisory committee (SAC). Members of the SAC, experts in a wide range of HIV/AIDS research disciplines, judge each proposal on its relative merit, technical feasibility, originality, innovation, promise, and pertinence.

Click here for list of Scientific Advisory Committee members


Setting Research Priorities

amfAR strives to ensure that its research agenda is responsive to the changing circumstances of the epidemic and the needs of affected individuals and communities, and to capitalize on emerging scientific opportunities. Periodically, the Foundation sponsors think tanks to seek the input of experts from academia, government, and industry who can help guide the Foundation in making most effective use of its research resources. Through these think tanks, amfAR creates an ambitious research agenda that defines specific priorities for new and expanded research efforts. This process is also crucial because it allows amfAR to avoid funding projects already supported by the NIH and to apply its resources solely to novel ideas.