A fresh new round of grants will bolster projects aimed at combating HIV. Recently, amfAR — the foundation for AIDS research focused on the thrust of curbing the global AIDS epidemic through innovative research — announced the pairing of HIV researchers with bioengineers to address a main barrier to a cure.
The foundation lost no time and tweeted, the “new grants involve microfluidics, gene-editing, nanotechnology, mass spectrometry & single-cell magnetic levitation.” Zeroing in on modern technological methods like mass spectrometry and single-cell magnetic is expected to address the obstinate reservoirs of virus that antiretroviral therapy has not been able to clear.
Sustaining the HIV Response
The new round of investment grants amounts to a hefty $1.2 million. It will be channeled to six new research projects that will utilize highly advanced technologies that have not been deemed viable before.
For the past 20 years, it will be noted that remarkable advances in bioengineering have led to the development of new therapeutics and technologies that can have a huge impact on fighting diseases. This was noted by amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. He expressed optimism that the new round of grants will lay the groundwork for some bold and innovative approaches leading to a cure for AIDS.
The milestone-based grants will allot $1.5 million for each research team over four years in three phases. They are part and parcel of amfAR’s $100 million Countdown to a Cure for AIDS initiative, with the end in view of creating the scientific basis of a cure by end of 2020.
Some amfAR supporters have noted that amfAR is one of the few organizations that focuses on results, not just ideas. The foundation has expressed that even if a medical curative therapy for HIV is developed, it is imperative that the HIV response is sustained in order to build effective delivery systems and ensure maximum and sustained uptake. The foundation for AIDS research had tweeted in February, “With an uncertain future of HIV/AIDS policy in Washington D.C., now more than ever it’s time to stand for a cure.”
Tech Comes to the Rescue
Focusing attention on magnetic levitation of single cells for the identification of an HIV reservoir, Dr. Timothy Henrich of the University of California and amfAR Institute for HIV Cure Research will collaborate with bioengineer Utkan Demirci, Ph.D., from the Regents of the University of California, San Francisco. The theory is that HIV creates a change in the density and magnetism of reservoir cells.
The scientists will make use of the device developed by Dr. Demirci with the ability to suspend a single cell between magnets and measure its density. It can help distinguish reservoir cells from uninfected cells, and define a molecular signature that can be targeted by medical interventions for HIV.
On the other hand, bioengineer Hui Zhang, Ph.D. will work closely with HIV scientist Weiming Yang, Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They will use mass spectrometry to identify molecules on the cells’ surface and differentiate the latent reservoir from uninfected cells.