UNC Will Head Study Toward a Cure for HIV

A major federal grant for HIV research led by Carolina faculty signals a shift from attempts to contain the spread of the virus to the belief that a cure is within reach.

David Margolis, professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine, will serve as principal investigator for the $32 million, five-year grant to develop ways to cure people with HIV. The work will focus on purging the HIV virus, which hides in the immune systems of patients taking antiretroviral therapy. To move from maintaining health when infected to finding a cure for HIV, researchers say they need to better understand where these reservoirs of HIV are located, how they are established and maintained, and how to eliminate them.

“This is the first major funding initiative ever to focus on HIV eradication, and we at UNC are excited to lead this collaboration of an incredible group of 19 investigators from across the country,” said Margolis, who also is a professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “With this funding, the NIH and the scientific community are saying that finding a cure for AIDS is a realistic goal and should be part of our plan of attack against the epidemic.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant will be administered by the N.C. Translational and Clinical Sciences Institute at UNC and will be shared among researchers at nine other U.S. universities. Co-funding also is being provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.

The other universities involved in the collaboration are Case Western Reserve; Johns Hopkins; University of California campuses at Davis, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego; the Gladstone Institute; Minnesota; and Utah. The group also will partner with Merck Research Laboratories; Merck will be receiving no federal funds for its contribution to the research.

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