The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Division has partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study HIV/AIDS for more than 30 years. Their efforts have been recognized with a new $18 million grant to continue conducting vaccine and treatment trials and engaging with communities affected by HIV.
The award also allows Rochester researchers to study other high-priority infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The team (pictured above) pivoted to study coronavirus vaccines and treatments over the past six months, contributing to the worldwide effort to bring safe and effective vaccines and therapies to market as quickly as possible.
“While creating a preventive HIV vaccine has been complex, our work has established approaches that are used for HIV and also contributed to the unprecedented speed at which coronavirus vaccines are being developed,” said Michael C. Keefer, M.D., professor in the department of Medicine and interim chief of the Infectious Diseases Division. For example, vaccines using adenoviruses as carriers of HIV proteins have been used in HIV research for years, and that is one of the approaches being used in two of the actively enrolling COVID-19 vaccine efficacy trials (AstraZeneca and Janssen trials). Additionally, anti-HIV monoclonal neutralizing antibodies have been shown to be active in preventing some HIV infections, and anti-coronavirus monoclonal antibodies have become an important strategy to treat patients with early-stage COVID-19.
The division received its first grant and became a part of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) HIV/AIDS Clinical Research Networks in 1987. Led by Keefer and Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., chair of the department of Microbiology and Immunology, as well as program director Catherine Bunce, the new grant will run for seven years and will be used to:
- Coordinate and execute high-quality HIV/AIDS vaccine and treatment trials that enroll participants from diverse populations.
- Engage with local communities to assess attitudes to clinical research and conduct educational outreach around research participation.
- Mentor and train the next generation of HIV/AIDS researchers.
- Advance HIV/AIDS research by providing scientific leadership and supporting NIAID’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) and HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN).
- Provide data and quality management, regulatory support, laboratory, pharmacy and other resources to effectively support HIV/AIDS clinical trials.
- Rapidly respond to emerging infectious diseases that require national attention and coordination.
“Being continuously funded to conduct HIV/AIDS treatment and preventive vaccine clinical trials since 1987 and being renewed for another seven years cements Rochester’s legacy of extraordinary commitment to controlling the HIV pandemic,” added Keefer. “Our thanks go out to multiple generations of researchers and, perhaps more importantly, the members of our community who have joined our studies to make this progress possible.”
A recent NIAID-funded study found that many people who participate in preventive HIV vaccine trials experience at least one beneficial social impact, such as feeling good helping others, as a result of taking part. Learn more about participating in HIV vaccine and treatment trials here and about volunteering for coronavirus vaccine and treatment studies at covidresearch.urmc.edu.
The grant number for the new award is 2UM1AI069511-15.