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2014 Avant-Garde Awards focus on strengthening the immune system
Date:5/19/2014

With proposals ranging from enhancing the immune system's ability to fight HIV infection to improving long-term immune health in HIV-infected drug users, three scientists have been chosen to receive the 2014 Avant-Garde Award for HIV/AIDS Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The three scientists, Drs. Stephen Waggoner, Heinrich Gottlinger, and Melanie Ott, will each receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research. NIDA's annual Avant-Garde award competition, now in its seventh year, is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug users.

Awardees are:

Stephen Waggoner, Ph.D., Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Project: A revolutionary vaccine approach to prevent HIV infection in substance abuse

Dr. Waggoner's group will play an important role in the ongoing science of HIV vaccine development. His project will focus on preventing natural killer cells from destroying activated helper CD4 cells, to strengthen vaccine effectiveness. The CD4 helper cells support the functioning of the immune system against infections, including HIV. A vaccine that enhances the immune system's long-term ability to resist infection could enhance the antibodies against HIV and delay progression to AIDS in vulnerable populations. This will be particularly valuable among drug users who are much less likely to be treated and to have some of the worst outcomes.

"Millions of people, including those with substance use disorders, would benefit from the development of an effective HIV vaccine," said Waggoner. "This award will permit our group to pursue a revolutionary vaccination approach designed to overcome natural roadblocks imposed by the immune system in order to prevent new HIV infections."

Heinrich Gottlinger, M.D., University
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Contact: NIDA Press Office
media@nida.nih.gov
301-443-6245
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
Source:Eurekalert  

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