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UMass Medical School researchers receive $8.5M grant award to fight AIDS

WORCESTER, Mass. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues around the globe laying claim to more than 25 million lives and infecting over 39 million, researchers continue to search for both a cure and improved treatments for those suffering with this disease. Now the leading cause of death worldwide among 15 to 59 year olds, AIDS is a remarkably resilient adversary with the potent ability to evolve rapidly. This evolution dramatically complicates treatment, decreasing the effectiveness of existing drugs and necessitating the continual development of new therapeutics. University of Massachusetts Medical School Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology Celia A. Schiffer, PhD, is at the forefront of investigations to elucidate how HIV develops resistance to current drugs.

As a principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health Institute of General Medical Sciences Program Project Grant first awarded in 2001, Dr. Schiffer has comprised a stellar team of scientists from around the nation to develop HIV drugs that are less vulnerable to drug resistance. In recognition of the success of her efforts, Schiffer was recently awarded a full, five-year renewal of the project, Targeting Ensembles of Drug Resistant HIV-Protease. The renewal, totaling more than $8.5 million, will speed studies that seek a better understanding of inhibitor recognition and the development of new methodologies for designing inhibitors against HIV and other viruses and infections that have a propensity for acquiring drug resistance.

According to Terry R. Flotte, MD, executive deputy chancellor of UMMS and dean of the School of Medicine, the renewal reflects the NIHs confidence in Schiffers scientific aims. This work clearly illustrates how the advance of molecular biology can lead to direct benefit to patients. Dr. Schiffer's efforts to define exactly how HIV can become resistant to current drugs are vital to the development of better strategies to control HIV/AIDS.

Contact: Kelly Bishop
University of Massachusetts Medical School

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