Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill have been awarded a $32 million, five-year federal grant to develop ways to cure people with HIV by purging the virus hiding in the immune systems of patients taking antiretroviral therapy. Tackling the latent virus is considered key to a cure for AIDS.
“This is the first major funding initiative ever to focus on HIV eradication, and we at UNC are excited to lead this collaboration of an incredible group of 19 investigators from across the country,” said David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine and principal investigator of the effort.
While previous HIV funding initiatives focused on prevention and vaccine development, “with this funding, the NIH 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,” said Margolis, who is also professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Although individuals infected with HIV may effectively control virus levels with antiretroviral drugs and maintain relatively good health, the virus is never fully eliminated from the cells and tissues it has infected. Researchers need to better understand where these reservoirs of HIV are located, how they are established and maintained, and how to eliminate them.