With the support of a multimillion-dollar federal grant, several local organizations are taking part in a groundbreaking study that aims to develop a cure for HIV. The Wistar Institute, in partnership with Philadelphia FIGHT, the University of Pennsylvania, University of California and Merck, is undertaking a trial study based on a therapeutic strategy that has already shown promise at reducing HIV-1 virus levels.
Dr. Luis J. Montaner, a professor at The Wistar Institute and director of Wistar’s HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Lab, and collaborators received a four-year, $6.2-million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health to support the study. Montaner said his team has been pursuing the grant for several years. “There is a lot of preamble before the award is given,” he said. “We have been chasing the opportunity to do this study since 2011.”
The study is based on a prior pilot trial in which a protein called interferon-alpha was shown to reduce persistent HIV-1 in patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy. The grant will pay for the management of the clinical and administrative expenses of the study and for laboratory follow-up, which will allow researchers to calculate the study’s outcome. Montaner said the team will perform an initial evaluation of the study in mid-2016, and it will be finalized in 2018.
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