Newswise — PHILADELPHIA – (Jan. 9, 2015) –Wistar Institute HIV/AIDS expert Luis J. Montaner, D.V.M., D. Phil., professor, director of HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Laboratory has been appointed to the Herbert Kean, M.D., Family Professorship. The endowed professorship recognizes the accomplishments of a distinguished member of Wistar’s current scientific staff and provides the resources to pursue the types of high-risk, high-reward science that can lead to major biomedical advances.
“The Kean Professorship fuels Wistar’s dynamic environment of freedom to pursue cutting edge science, as Luis’s pioneering work toward eliminating HIV demonstrates,” said Russel E. Kaufman, M.D., president and CEO of The Wistar Institute. “It reinforces Wistar’s ability to retain top-notch faculty whose critical research should be unencumbered by factors such as instability in the funding climate.”
Montaner’s research focuses on how the immune system recovers after antiretroviral therapy and how it may best be redirected towards HIV eradication. His innovative work in the field, with partners around the world, has moved basic research findings to clinical trials through strong team building and community involvement. Dr. Montaner’s team showed that using interferon-alpha in the laboratory subjects stably suppressed with antiretroviral drugs could kill HIV-infected cells.
In 2013, Montaner moved these observations to the clinic completing the first pilot trial showing pegylated interferon-alpha given to patients on antiretroviral therapy resulted in reductions in persistent viral reservoirs (latent pockets of HIV/AIDS virus that remain and can potentially replicate). This antiviral strategy is an innovative step forward in a cure for HIV/AIDS.
"HIV Cure research is a top priority worldwide, and this appointment will foster our progress towards finding strategies that can permanently control the infection by recognizing a leader in this research effort," said Nobel Laureate Françoise Barré-Sinoussi. Dr. Barré-Sinoussi, is the co-discoverer of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and 2008 Nobel Laureate.
Continuing with this strategy of antiretroviral and interferon-alpha therapy in 2014, Montaner has now begun the first and largest randomized trial of its kind to drain HIV reservoirs in affected individuals through his partnership with Philadelphia FIGHT, a regional health services organization, and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
Jane Shull, Executive Director of Philadelphia FIGHT, said “We have worked with Luis for twenty years. He’s a brilliant and innovative researcher who, while working in basic science, has been able to maintain strong relationships with the HIVAIDS community in Philadelphia. This is because Luis has never lost sight of the goal, which is a cure for HIV, and the promise that this epidemic will end someday. We at FIGHT congratulate him on this well-deserved appointment.”
“Dr. Montaner is a leader in the field of HIV/AIDS research and the Kean Professorship makes it possible to support his quest for an HIV cure,” said Dario C. Altieri, M.D., executive vice president and chief scientific officer of The Wistar Institute, director of Wistar’s Cancer Center, and the Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. “HIV eradication is a global pursuit and Luis’s current study on whether interferon-α therapy can lower persistent HIV reservoirs in currently treated patients is at the forefront of the effort with a new and exciting approach to advance the cure for HIV infection.” Established in 2002, the Kean Professorship is made possible through a generous gift from Dr. Kean, a Philadelphia surgeon, businessman and philanthropist. Dr. Kean graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, attended Hahnemann Medical School and was awarded his M.D. in 1956. He served his internship at Hahnemann Hospital in 1956-57 and his residency at Jefferson Hospital from 1957 to 1960. From 1960 until his retirement in 1999, Dr. Kean was in private practice as an ear, nose, and throat clinician and surgeon, and he was board certified in otolaryngology and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. At the time of his retirement, he was an attending physician at Thomas Jefferson Hospital and a clinical professor in otolaryngology at Thomas Jefferson Medical College.
The Wistar Institute is an international leader in biomedical research with special expertise in cancer research and vaccine development. Founded in 1892 as the first independent nonprofit biomedical research institute in the country, Wistar has long held the prestigious Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The Institute works actively to ensure that research advances move from the laboratory to the clinic as quickly as possible. The Wistar Institute: Today’s Discoveries – Tomorrow’s Cures. On the Web at www.wistar.org.# # #