Michael Farzan, Ph.D., The Scripps Research Institute
Project: A safety switch for an effective HIV-1 vaccine
Dr. Farzan plans to use preclinical models to explore safe and effective gene therapies for the long-term prevention of HIV infection in high-risk populations, such as injection drug users. He will use an adeno-associated virus to deliver broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) or eCD4-Ig, proteins that prevent HIV-1 from infecting cells. His group will also explore safety switch mechanisms to control bNAbs and eCD4-Ig, thereby increasing safety during long-term exposure to these molecules.
Eric M. Poeschla, Ph.D., University of Colorado Denver
Project: Novel Approaches to Innate Immunity Against HIV-1 and Other Co-infection Viruses
Dr. Poeschla will use animal and human cells to explore the use of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRP) to enhance broad-spectrum (innate) immunity against various viruses, including HIV-1. Evidence suggests that this stable innate immune system activation does not trigger autoimmunity or inflammatory pathways. This approach may also protect against viruses that infect people with addiction.
Peter S. Kim, Ph.D., Stanford University
Project: Making the HIV-1 gp41 pocket amenable to small-molecule drug discovery
Dr. Kim’s group proposes a strategy that alters the HIV-1 gp41 region, thereby increasing structural rigidity in this region. This will enhance testing of new therapeutics that target the gp41 pocket to prevent HIV infection. Because the pocket is structurally similar across different HIV-1 strains, these therapeutics could treat patients, including people with substance use disorders, who are at higher risk of developing resistance to one or more classes of anti-HIV drugs.
The Avant-Garde Awards are modeled after the NIH Pioneer Awards and are granted to scientists of exceptional creativity who propose high-impact research that could open new avenues for prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS among people with substance use disorders.
For information about NIDA’s AIDS Research Program, including the Avant-Garde Award Program for HIV/AIDS Research, go to www.drugabuse.gov/AIDS. Read about selected highlights of past Avant-Garde awardees.
Drs. Farzan, Poeschla and Kim are funded under grant numbers DA043912-01, DA043915-01 and DA043893-01, respectively.
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