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The National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has awarded a $25 million grant jointly to researchers from the Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute, Florida (VGTI FL) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). The award of nearly $5 million a year for five years is part of the Martin Delaney Collaboratory, a funding opportunity designed to foster public-private partnerships to accelerate progress toward an HIV cure.

Primary researchers include investigators Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, Ph.D., co-director and CSO of VGTI Florida; Steven Deeks, M.D., professor of medicine at the UCSF Division of HIV/AIDS; and Joseph “Mike” McCune, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the UCSF Division of Experimental Medicine. The team also includes an industry partner Merck Research Labs.

Approximately 40,000 new infections and 16,000 deaths from HIV are expected in the United States this year. Today, 1.2 million Americans are impacted by HIV/AIDS including 98,000 Floridians. In the past 30 years and since its discovery, 30 million lives have been claimed by this devastating disease.

“Drugs can control HIV in infected individuals. However, patients have to take these drugs all their lives. The only way to stop this is by completely eradicating HIV from the place where it is hiding during drug treatment,’’ said Rafick-Pierre Sékaly, Ph.D. “This objective cannot be reached by one or two laboratories but requires collaboration among several sectors of the biomedical research industry including corporate partners.”

“HIV continues to kill millions of people in developing countries, including many regions of Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Our hope is to have a single, or more likely, a combination regimen that truly cures the disease and that we could eventually deliver to people infected with HIV throughout the world,” said Steven Deeks, M.D.

‘’Our group at VGTI FL has identified new mechanisms that allow HIV to persist in the human body. This grant will enable us to find a way to expunge the virus from its hideout,” said Dr. Nicolas Chomont, Assistant Member at VGTI FL.

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