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University of Pittsburgh Researchers Part of “BELIEVE” Team that Received $28 Million, Five-Year NIH Award to Find HIV/AIDS Cure

PITTSBURGH, July 13, 2016 – The National Institutes for Health (NIH) awarded a five-year grant, totaling $28 million, to The George Washington University (GW), which will collaborate with University of Pittsburgh researchers, as well as 17 other medical institutions, to find a cure for HIV.
This award is the second iteration of the Martin Delaney Collaboratory program, which fosters public-private partnerships to accelerate HIV/AIDS cure research. Delaney, an influential AIDS activist, championed partnerships involving government, academia and industry.
The Pittsburgh arm of the project is being led by Thomas Smithgall, Ph.D., the William S. McEllroy Professor and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Pitt School of Medicine
The project is named, “Bench to Bed Enhanced Lymphocyte Infusions to Engineer Viral Eradication (BELIEVE).” The goal of this collaborative effort is to find ways to eliminate HIV reservoirs, through an innovative cell therapy approach that will focus on augmenting individuals’ natural immunity. Work in the Smithgall laboratory is focused on drug discovery targeting an HIV-1 protein that suppresses the body’s immune response to the virus.  According to Dr. Smithgall, “Working with the BELIEVE consortium, we will be in a position to examine the potential of these novel compounds to restore natural immune responses to HIV-infected cells, a critical component of an HIV cure strategy.”
The University of Pittsburgh researchers are part of a team led by GW, working with Altor Bioscience and Torque. The initiative is led by Douglas Nixon, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine in the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
“We know that through this strategic collaboration with our research partners and a commitment to finding a cure, we will move closer to reaching our goals of eradicating HIV/AIDS,” said Nixon.
In addition to Pitt, the institutions involved in this research are Children’s National Health System; NIH; Howard University; University of Arizona; Brigham Young University; University of Minnesota; Johns Hopkins University; Seattle Children’s Hospital; Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University; University of Pennsylvania; Georgetown University; Albert Einstein College of Medicine; University of Toronto, Canada; Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada; Centro de Investigación en Enfermedades Infecciosas, Mexico City, Mexico; and the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

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