amFAR announces new institute devoted to finding a cure for HIV

Posted on 30 Nov 2015 at 4:55pm

Paul Volberding, M.D

Officials with amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, announced today (Monday, Nov. 30), the establishment of the amFAR Institute for HIV Cure Research. The new institute will be a collaborative effort based at UC San Francisco and devoted to developing the scientific basis for a cure for HIV by the end of 2020. The institute will be the cornerstone of amFAR’s $100 million cure research investment strategy.

The announcement came during a press conference held early Monday afternoon, just one day before the world marks World AIDS Day 2015.

amFAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost said the foundation “intend[s] ti quicken the pace of cure research by supporting a collaborative community of leading HIV researchers in one cohesive enterprise. The institute will allow them to conduct the science, share ideas and test and evaluate new technologies and potential therapies in a state-of-the-art environment. And I can think of no better base for such an enterprise than the San Francisco Bar Area, the crucible of technological innovation in America.”

Frost added that establishing an institute dedicated to finding a cure for HIV “in a city that was once considered ground zero of the AIDS epidemic brings full circle the outstanding work that UCSF’s researchers have been doing over the past 30 years.”

In a statement released immediately following the press conference, amFAR officials said the new institute will support teams of scientists working across the research continuum — from basic science to clinical studies — and will tap into UCSF’s “extensive research network across the region.” Among the agencies collaborating with the new institute will be the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and Blood Systems Research, as well as Oregon Health and Science University, Berkely, Gilead Sciences and the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle.

The new institute was established with a $20 million grant over five years, and it will allow teams of researchers to collaborate across institutions and disciplines to address “the four key challenges that must be overcome to effect a cure: pinpoint the precise locations of the latent reservoirs of virus; determine how they are formed and persist; quantify the amount of virus in them; and eradicate the reservoirs from the body.

The director of the new institute will be Paul Volberding, M.D., a UCSF professor of medicine. Joining him on the leadership team will be Mike McCune, M.D., Ph.D., chief and professor of UCSF’s Division of Experimental Medicine; Warner Greene, M.D., Ph.D., director and Nick and Sue Hellman distinguished professor of translational medicine with the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at UCSF and co-director of the UCSF-Gladstone Center for AIDS Research; Satish Pillai, Ph.D., associate professor of laboratory  medicine at UCSF and associate investigator with Blood Systems Research Institute; Steven Deeks, M.D., professor of medicine at UCSF; Teri Liegler, Ph.D., director of the Virology Core Laboratory at UCSF-GIVI Center for AIDS Research; and Peter Hunt, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the HIV/AIDS division and a member of the executive committee of the AIDS Research Institute at UCSF.

They will work in collaboration with Afam Okoye, Ph.D., staff scientist at Oregon Health and Science University.

“For those of us who watched helplessly as thousands died, the opportunity to try and develop an HIV cure is truly amazing,” Volberding said. “We are proud to have been chosen by amFAR as the only amFAR HIV Cure Institute in the nation. We’re ready to end this epidemic.”

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