UC Davis researchers are taking part in a consortium led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that aims to find ways to eradicate HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from the body. The five-year project is being funded by a $32 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and includes nine universities and one company, Merck Research Laboratories of Whitehouse Station, N.J.
Current anti-retroviral drugs allow people infected with HIV to control virus levels and maintain relatively good health, but never fully eliminate the virus from the body. To achieve that goal, researchers need to better understand where and how HIV survives in the body.
As part of the consortium, UC Davis researchers Paul Luciw, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and scientist at the Center for Comparative Medicine, and Koen van Rompay, research scientist at the California National Primate Research Center, will test novel therapies in rhesus monkeys that have been experimentally infected with the simian immunodeficiency virus, which is genetically similar to HIV.
The UC Davis studies, together with work by other consortium investigators, will lay the basis for designing clinical trials of these novel therapies in people living with HIV.
The consortium is named the Martin Delaney Collaboratory after Martin Delaney, an internationally recognized AIDS activist who died in 2009. The partners will undertake more than a dozen research projects to discover how the virus can remain dormant and virtually invisible, identify drugs and treatments capable of ridding the body of persistent infection, and test these new strategies in animal models so that they can be translated into people.
The other universities taking part are Case Western Reserve University, Johns Hopkins University, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC San Francisco, The Gladstone Institute, University of Minnesota and
University of Utah.