|NIDA Announces Recipients of New Avant-Garde
Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National
Institutes of Health, today announced the first three recipients
of its new Avant-Garde Award. This award is intended to stimulate
high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities
for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. Award
recipients will receive $500,000 per year for five years to support
NIDA’s HIV/AIDS Research Program supports an innovative and multidisciplinary
HIV/AIDS research portfolio that addresses the role of drug use
and its related behaviors in the evolving dynamics of HIV/AIDS
epidemiology, natural history/pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention.
The three awardees will undertake diverse approaches in their
research on HIV — one scientist will investigate HIV’s ability to
hijack key proteins involved in the regulation of host cell gene
expression; another researcher proposes to develop agents that
can effectively block the spread of the HIV virus within the body;
and the third will evaluate the effectiveness of expanded access
to highly active antiretroviral therapy in decreasing new cases
of HIV infection among injection drug users.
The Avant-Garde Awards are modeled after the NIH Pioneer Awards,
which are granted to scientists of exceptional creativity who propose
pioneering and possibly transformative approaches to major challenges
in biomedical and behavioral research. "It is our hope that by
supporting investigators who look differently at the challenge
of HIV/AIDS, we will discover new approaches to the prevention
and treatment of this devastating disease," said NIH Director Elias
"We are excited by the innovative approaches proposed by our award
recipients," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, who announced the
awards. "They are investigators who are willing to step into un-traveled
scientific territory, and we want to support their vision."
The Avant-Garde Awardees were selected from 52 applicants whose applications
reflected diverse scientific disciplines and approaches to HIV/AIDS
research. The Avant-Garde Awards were granted to the following researchers:
For further information about the Avant-Garde Award, please visit
the NIDA Avant-Garde Award Web site at http://www.nida.nih.gov/about/organization/arp/AVGP.htm Information about the FY09 Avant-Garde award will be posted on this site soon.
Awardee: Ileana Cristea, Ph.D., assistant professor
in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University,
Princeton, N.J., is a young investigator of exceptional talent
and promise whose research creatively applies technology to address
significant biological issues. She developed methodology that allows
tracking of protein localization and elucidation of interacting
partners. Dr. Cristea applied this technology first to study the
virus-host interactions for Sindbis fever (caused by a mosquito-borne
virus) and has extended this technology to the study of other virus
host interactions, including human cytomegalovirus and HIV.
Project: Proteomic tools to uncover the role of chromatin remodeling
in HIV-1 infection
The HIV virus contains relatively little genetic information.
Therefore, it usurps many of the host’s cellular machinery for
its own purposes. This study focuses on HIV’s ability to hijack
key proteins involved in the regulation of gene expression. A
strength of this proposal is its unique ability to perform a
comprehensive screen of interactions between viral and host proteins.
- Awardee: Jerome Groopman, M.D., professor of medicine, Dina
and Raphael Recanati Chair at the Harvard Medical School and
Chief, Division of Experimental Medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Groopman's research
focuses on basic mechanisms of hematopoiesis, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
He is a renowned translational physician-scientist whose research
provided key information on hematological abnormalities in AIDS
patients early-on in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Dr. Groopman studied
how HIV elicits immune responses suppressive of marrow stem cell
replication and maturation and also conducted the first clinical
trials demonstrating that colony stimulating factors could restore
cell number and function.
Project: Inhibition of HIV at the Immune Synapse Utilizing Novel
Ligands and Receptors
Cells of the immune system form complexes (the immune synapse)
that are very efficient at passing HIV to uninfected cells. This
study seeks to develop agents that will block virus propagation
from the immune synapse. This project has the potential to develop
new therapeutics that block movement of HIV infected cells throughout
the lymphatic system.
- Awardee: Julio Montaner, M.D., professor of
medicine at the University of British Columbia and Head, Division
of AIDS Canada, Director, British Columbia Centre for Excellence
in HIV/AIDS, Providence Health Care, adjunct professor, Department
of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, studies the
role of HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment) as HIV
prevention at a population level. Dr. Montaner, who was recently
elected president of the International AIDS Society, is a highly
regarded HIV/AIDS clinician who performed pioneering work on
the development of HAART therapy. Dr. Montaner is now directing
more of his research focus on HIV prevention.
Project: Seek and Treat for Optimal Outcomes and Prevention
in HIV & AIDS in IDUs
Preliminary evidence suggests that expanded HAART coverage among
injection drug users will decrease new HIV infections within
the population, including but not restricted to injection drug
users. This project will test the existing evidence. If successful,
this effort could lead to decreased sickness, death and hospital
utilization by injection drug users. Its results could have dramatic
consequences for the control of the HIV epidemic around the world.
NIDA, part of NIH, supports most of the world’s research
on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction, and carries out
a variety of programs to inform policy and improve practice. Fact
sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and information on
NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home
page at http://www.drugabuse.gov
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
Note: On September 5, at the request of the institute, the words “Providence Health Care” were added under the listing for Awardee Julio Montaner, M.D.