A research group at Emory University has been awarded a $35.6 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) toward developing new strategies for preventing and curing HIV/AIDS, according to Tuesday's news release.
Dr. Rama Amara, one of Emory Center for AIDS Research's principal investigators told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the grant has two major goals: to create a preventative vaccine and to develop a functional cure for those already infected with the virus.
"A person infected with HIV can use therapy or drugs — and there are some right now that are really good," he said. "But the major drawback is that the people infected have to be on them for the rest of their life."
Using the grant, investigators aim to develop a cure that can reprogram the immune system so that when individuals are removed from therapy, the virus can still be controlled without any drugs, he said.
The Emory researchers, along with leading HIV investigators around the country, will be working closely with nonhuman primates at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
"We have shown that vaccines work to some extent, but we don't know for sure exactly how they work," Amara said.
Using the animal model, Amara said, investigators will be able to better understand the mechanisms of the vaccines inside the body.
The partnership between Emory and the NIH brings together scientists with a diverse mix of research backgrounds to combine multiple components of individual studies for a more synergistic approach, Amara said.
"It's a real collaborative effort and Emory plays a big role," he said. "The grant has provided an opportunity to do something really big."