SEATTLE — July 13, 2016 —The National Institutes of Health today awarded a second five-year round of funding to defeatHIV, a public-private research group based at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center that has spent the last five years investigating the use of genetically modified, HIV-resistant blood stem cells as a potential cure for the virus that causes AIDS.
“We’re excited and honored to be able to continue defeatHIV’s work and keep Fred Hutch at the center of HIV cure research, particularly in the area of cell and gene therapy,” said defeatHIV co-director Dr. Keith Jerome, a Fred Hutch virologist.
The new $23.5 million award for Fred Hutch will allow the group to tackle three new approaches that build on its current work including:
- In partnership with Seattle-based biopharmaceutical company Juno Therapeutics, exploring CAR T-cell therapy, a type of immunotherapy that already is being hailed as a potent anti-cancer weapon, against HIV;
- Using gene therapy to induce production of a synthetic “super antibody” to target HIV;
- Adding a therapeutic vaccine to boost the proliferation and function of genetically modified HIV-resistant cells.
All three new tactics have in common a focus on using the immune system to eradicate or at least control HIV.
“We’ve learned that the immune response — the patient’s immune system — plays a critical role in controlling HIV, just like in cancer,” said defeatHIV co-director Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, a Fred Hutch stem cell transplant and gene therapy researcher. “It’s set the stage for the next generation of studies to further mobilize and harness the immune system to fight HIV.”
The awards are the second iteration of the Martin Delaney Collaboratory: Towards an HIV-1 Cure program and are a part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to invest in HIV cure research. The research program is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, all part of the NIH.
“The two greatest challenges remaining in HIV/AIDS research are finding a cure and developing a safe and effective preventive vaccine. This year, NIAID has made significant investments toward both of these critical goals,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. in an NIH announcement this week.
“A simple, safe and scalable cure for HIV would accelerate progress toward ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic,” he added.
In all, six research groups received a total of $30 million annually over five years from the NIH to advance basic medical science toward an HIV cure.
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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.