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Mass. General Hospital receives Gates Foundation grant to expand HIV controllers study
Date:3/4/2008

The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has received a five-year, $20.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand an international program investigating the biological factors underlying immune system control of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The grant provides support to the International HIV Controllers Study, which currently involves researchers from more than a dozen countries and has the overall goal of discovering information that can guide design of a vaccine to limit viral replication in HIV-infected individuals. A primary focus will be understanding genetic and immunological factors that have allowed a few individuals to control HIV naturally without the need for medications, some for more than 25 years.

The grant is part of the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, an international network of research consortia funded by the Gates Foundation to address priorities in the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise scientific plan.

We believe that it is critical to understand how these individuals who are maintaining viral levels so low that transmission and disease progression should decrease markedly are keeping the virus in check and preventing it from causing disease, says Bruce Walker, MD, director of the Partners AIDS Research Center at MGH and principal investigator of the Gates Foundation grant. By recruiting enough of these individuals, we hope to identify the genetic basis for this viral control, using novel methods developed for the Human Genome Project. We believe this approach is all the more important given recent setbacks in HIV vaccine trials.

For more than 15 years it has been apparent that a small minority of HIV-positive people remained healthy despite many years of infection. As techniques for measuring viral levels in the bloodstream became more sensitive, it was possible to identify this group of viremic controllers, who can maintain viral loads below 2,000 copies/ml, and an even s
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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