The University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research (UR CFAR) held its eighth annual HIV/AIDS Scientific Symposium on Thursday, December 1 in recognition of World AIDS Day. Supporting the early career development of diverse young HIV/AIDS investigators is a major goal of the UR CFAR, and in that spirit the Center recognized outstanding research conducted by graduate and medical students and post-doctoral fellows. Award winners include:
· Vika Anokhina: Clinical/translational/public health research conducted by a graduate student.
Anokhina studies the use of RNA-targeted compounds to eliminate HIV in the laboratory of Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., professor of Dermatology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry (UR SMD).
· Abena Bruce: Clinical/translational/public health research conducted by a graduate student.
Bruce is a medical student at the UR SMD researching young adult attitudes toward PrEP uptake in Cape Town, South Africa. (PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication to lower the risk of HIV).
· Cindy Bednasz, Pharm.D.: Clinical/translational/public health research conducted by a post-doctoral fellow.
Bednasz is studying the most effective dosing range for efavirenz – a suggested alternative to recommended antiretroviral (ARV) regimens – in patients with HIV who have not previously received ARV treatment. She works in the lab of Gene Morse, Pharm.D., SUNY distinguished professor in the department of Pharmacy Practice at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
· Matthew Brewer: Basic science research conducted by a graduate student.
Brewer is a Ph.D. student in the lab of Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., chair of the department of Microbiology and Immunology at the UR SMD and director of the UR CFAR. Brewer focuses on the use of nanoparticles to boost the immune system’s response to vaccines for HIV and other viruses.
· Hyun Ah Yi: Basic science research conducted by a post-doctoral fellow.
A post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Amy Jacobs, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Yi seeks to identify small molecule drugs that can be used to prevent HIV from entering the body.
“What stood out about this poster session was the diversity of research presented, from behavioral and drug discovery research to figuring out the best way to use current medications,” said Robert Bambara, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology at the UR SMD who helped judge the posters. “AIDS is still a major world pandemic, but young scientists should be excited about working in this field because we are making real progress.”
Leading researchers from across the country traveled to Rochester to discuss hot topics in the field. Paul A. Wender, Ph.D., professor of Chemistry and Chemical and Systems Biology at Stanford University highlighted various avenues of investigation that are putting us closer to an eradication strategy for HIV. Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine Guido Silvestri, M.D., talked about the immune system’s ability to control replication of HIV in the presence of antiretroviral therapy, and B. Matija Peterlin, M.D., professor of Medicine at University of California, San Francisco shared findings related to HIV latency and reactivation.
For the second year, the UR CFAR recognized a member of the community who has gone above and beyond to support HIV/AIDS research locally. Peter Mohr, owner of the Bachelor Forum (Rochester’s oldest gay bar) and a past member of the board of directors for the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, won the CFAR Community Partner Award for his advocacy and support of the LGBT community and for fostering community collaboration and participation in HIV/AIDS research. Michael C. Keefer, M.D., professor of Infectious Diseases and co-director of the UR CFAR (pictured left) presented the award to Mohr (pictured right).
To raise awareness of World AIDS Day throughout the community, the UR CFAR joined forces with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s HIV Vaccine Trials Unit, also known as the Rochester Victory Alliance, and the University’s Susan B. Anthony Center to light the city of Rochester red. Many famous buildings and landmarks participated, including Xerox Tower, Rundell Memorial Library, High Falls and the George Eastman Museum.
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The University of Rochester Medical Center is home to approximately 3,000 individuals who conduct research on everything from cancer and heart disease to Parkinson’s, pandemic influenza and autism. Spread across many centers, institutes and labs, our scientists have developed therapies that have improved human health locally, in the region and across the globe. To learn more, visit www.urmc.rochester.edu/research.