World AIDS Day Scientific Symposium Highlights Vaccine Research, Honors Community Leader

Dec. 2, 2015

In celebration of World AIDS Day, held every year on December 1, the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research (UR CFAR) hosted a scientific symposium. Guest lecturer Dan Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, highlighted that the best hope for controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has claimed the lives of 39 million people around the world, is the development of a safe and effective vaccine. Barouch outlined the challenges of developing an HIV vaccine–there are many–and new strategies being studied, including an HIV vaccine pill that was tested at the University of Rochester Medical Center by infectious disease expert John J. Treanor, M.D., and HIV vaccine expert and co-director of the UR CFAR Michael C. Keefer, M.D.

The second speaker of the day, Stephen Goff, Ph.D., professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Microbiology and Immunology at Columbia University Medical Center, discussed his research on silencing different types of viruses. Silencing involves preventing viruses from making copies of themselves inside their host cells. Goff’s hope is that by understanding the specific cellular mechanisms that naturally silence certain viruses he can figure out a way to apply this information to HIV or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.William Valenti and Stephen Dewhurst

Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., vice dean for research and director of the UR CFAR presented the CFAR’s new Community Partner Award to William Valenti, M.D., co-founder and staff physician at Trillium Health. The award seeks to recognize those who have exemplified commitment and leadership in developing community collaboration with the CFAR in the HIV/AIDS research field. Valenti, the founding recipient of the award, was selected for his long-standing partnership with UR, his pioneering contributions to community engagement in HIV/AIDS-related health care and research, and his profound commitment, since the beginning of the epidemic, to ensuring that persons living with HIV/AIDS in the Rochester area receive the most innovative and effective care possible. (Valenti (left) and Dewhurst (right) pictured.)

The symposium also included a poster session with posters from undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral associates training at the University. The posters were judged by various faculty members and the most innovative and promising projects were recognized. Award winners include:

·         John Rice: Clinical/translational/public health research conducted by a post-doctoral fellow

·         Jennetta Hammond: Basic science research conducted by a post-doctoral fellow

·         Rohit Nayak: Clinical/translational/public health research conducted by a student

·         Thomas Hilimire: Basic science research conducted by a graduate student

·         Shihao Xu: Basic science research conducted by a graduate student