NIH awards $9 million to Emory CFAR

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | July 24, 2012

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Holly Korschun
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hkorsch@emory.edu

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HIV/AIDS at Emory

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Center for AIDS Research at Emory University (CFAR) more than $9 million in a five-year grant that includes renewal of Emory's designation as an NIH CFAR site. This is the third NIH competitive renewal grant since the CFAR at Emory was originally designated and supported by the NIH in 1998.

Since the Emory CFAR's founding the NIH has provided more than $24 million to expand NIH-funded AIDS research at Emory through the provision of equipment, services, expertise, training and materials that are unavailable through investigator-initiated NIH funding mechanisms.

Under the direction of James W. Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health; Carlos del Rio, chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health; and Eric Hunter, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, the CFAR at Emory is one of 21 NIH-funded CFARs located throughout the United States. It provides support for 245 Emory and affiliated faculty, research fellows, and post-doctoral fellows who conduct fundamental, translational and applied research in the United States and globally.

"The Emory Center for AIDS Research has allowed numerous Emory scientists, along with our research partners, to make a huge impact on Atlanta and the Southeast in fighting this epidemic through clinical trials, improved treatment, behavioral and therapeutic intervention and prevention, and access to care through community involvement," says Curran. "We have great hopes that through our continued efforts we will continue to better control and eventually eliminate this terrible disease."

The new grant will help support all areas of AIDS research being undertaken at Emory, including:

  • behavioral prevention research,
  • basic studies of immunology,
  • vaccine development,
  • HIV pathogenesis,
  • drug discovery, and
  • clinical and translational science.

In addition to the NIH, the CFAR at Emory is supported by the Georgia Research Alliance, the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and multiple units of Emory University, including the Winship Cancer Institute, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the Rollins School of Public Health, the Emory University School of Medicine, and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

CFAR  scientists produce groundbreaking research

CFAR scientists located at Emory, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Morehouse School of Medicine have produced groundbreaking HIV/AIDS research, including the invention of HIV/AIDS drugs taken by more than 94 percent of U.S. patients on therapy and by thousands more around the globe.

Behavioral interventions designed by CFAR faculty have been included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compendium of evidence-based HIV prevention interventions. An HIV vaccine first developed by CFAR scientists at the Emory Vaccine Center and Yerkes National Primate Research Center and licensed to GeoVax is in phase II human clinical trials. It is one of only five HIV vaccine candidates to progress to that stage of development.

The Rwanda-Zambia HIV Research Group, founded and directed by faculty affiliated with the CFAR, recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of its work in HIV prevention via couples voluntary counseling and testing (CVCT). CVCT has been shown to lead to reductions in subsequent HIV transmission within couples by greater than 50 percent, compared to testing only one partner at a time. It is considered to be a "high-leverage" intervention in African settings.

The Ponce de Leon Health Center HIV/AIDS Clinic, directed by CFAR faculty physicians from the Emory School of Medicine in partnership with the Grady Health System Infectious Diseases Program, has been one of the top three HIV clinics in the nation for the past ten years, caring for more than 5,000 persons who are living with HIV annually.

The Atlanta Veteran's Affairs Medical Center (AVAMC), adjacent to the Emory campus, houses a clinical HIV program staffed by CFAR physicians that follows 1,307 veterans with HIV disease – the largest population of HIV-infected patients within the national Veterans Affairs health care system. The AVAMC HIV program also maintains the oldest and most comprehensive research database of veterans with HIV/AIDS in the country, with records of more than 3,500 patients spanning 28 years. Research undertaken by CFAR scientists at the AVAMC has been crucial to new insights on HIV disease care and progression arising from the national Veterans Aging Cohort Study.

CFAR's Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center continues to be a national leader in conducting clinical trials for HIV vaccines and is a top-enrolling site for the NIH HVTN (HIV Vaccine Trials Network). The CFAR also is a leading clinical site for the NIH-led HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN). A recent HPTN study concluded that the HIV incidence rate for U.S. women living in areas hardest hit by the epidemic, including Atlanta, is much higher than the overall estimated U.S. incidence rate for black adolescent and adult women.

Recent CFAR at Emory accomplishments also include:

  • Launch of AIDSVu, a new online tool providing comprehensive and easy-to-understand data on persons living with an HIV infection diagnosis in the United States, including geographic prevalence, testing locations, and self-help information.
  • Launch of TestingTogether.org, an organization providing couples voluntary counseling and testing for men who have sex with men. The initiative is supported by a grant from the MAC AIDS Fund and is conducted in collaboration with AID Atlanta and the Ric Crawford Clinic (formerly AIDS Gwinnett).
  • A partnership with CDC's Enhanced Comprehensive HIV Prevention Planning and Implementation (ECHPP) program, a collaboration with the Georgia Department of Public Health to support couples voluntary counseling and testing (CVCT) in MSM couples. This strategy was adapted from the successful CVCT strategy developed by CFAR members in Rwanda and Zambia.
  • Implementation of a new high-resolution cryo-transmission electron microscope that will allow CFAR scientists to view three-dimensional structures of viruses, determine structural changes in HIV, and work to develop and improve effective treatments. The microscope, one of only four like it in the world, is supported by the Georgia Research Alliance.