amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has announced the establishment of an institute that will work to develop the scientific basis for a cure for HIV by 2020.
Established with a five-year, $20 million grant, the amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research, the cornerstone of amfAR's $100 million cure research investment strategy, will support scientists working across the research continuum, from basic science to clinical studies. To be based at the University of California, San Francisco, the institute will involve collaborations among researchers at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology in San Francisco; the Blood Systems Research Institute in San Francisco; Oregon Health and Science University; the University of California, Berkeley; Gilead Sciences; and the Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute.
Nearly 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, and while antiretroviral therapy can help people with HIV live longer and healthier lives, it does not eliminate the virus. There is general consensus within the scientific community that the principal barrier to a cure is the reservoirs, or pockets, of virus that remain in a person even after they have reached "undetectable" levels of HIV as a result of ART. With support from the institute, research teams will work to address the four key challenges that must be overcome to effect a cure: pinpointing the locations of the latent virus reservoirs; determining how those reservoirs are formed and why they persist; quantifying the amount of virus in them; and eradicating virus reservoirs from the body.
"We intend to quicken the pace of cure research by supporting a collaborative community of leading HIV researchers in one cohesive enterprise," said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. "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 Bay Area, the crucible of technological innovation in America....Furthermore, 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 thirty years."