Newswise — BOSTON – A team led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s (BIDMC) Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD – who partnered with Johnson & Johnson to develop the single shot COVID-19 vaccine – has been awarded $4.9 million in annual funding over the next five years to find a cure for HIV. Barouch was one of ten primary investigators to receive a 2021 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Martin Delaney Collaboratories for HIV Cure Research award, which aims to expedite human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cure research by bringing together research partners in academia, government, the private sector and the community; coordinating complex research studies, and mentoring the next generation of HIV cure researchers.
A leading HIV investigator, Barouch and colleagues will focus on understanding the viral reservoir – dormant HIV-infected immune cells that remain in the body despite anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and can spring back into action if ART is interrupted – and on developing new immunologic strategies targeting the reservoir to control or eradicate HIV infection. With more than 35 million people worldwide living with the virus and nearly 2 million new cases each year, HIV remains a major global epidemic.
“The latent viral reservoir is the critical barrier for the development of a cure for HIV-1 infection,” said Barouch, who is director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at BIDMC. “Our overall hypothesis is that multiple immunologic strategies will need to be explored and combined to achieve long-term, ART-free virologic control or complete virus eradication. We’re very grateful for this grant and tremendously excited to see the progress we can make with this long-term source of support.”
The NIH’s Collaboratory program was launched in 2010 in honor of the late HIV/AIDS activist Martin Delaney, who served on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH, AIDS Research Advisory Committee. The new awards will focus on three key areas: basic research on HIV reservoirs and/or post-treatment control; strategies for durable control of viral rebound; and approaches to reducing, eradicating, or inactivating the latent virus.
“Dr. Barouch has performed elegant, innovative science to enhance our understanding of HIV,” said Mark Zeidel, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine at BIDMC. “His innovations include the development of novel and highly effective adenoviral vectors, and the development and application of highly relevant animal models to test the efficacy of vaccine candidates. We look forward to seeing his future contributions in HIV research with this generous support.”
Barouch, who is also the William Bosworth Castle Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, has an impressive track-record for developing novel vaccines and cure strategies for viruses of global importance. In addition to his contributions to the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, Barouch and colleagues also developed the first Zika virus vaccine in 2016, as well as the first global mosaic HIV-1 vaccine, currently in phase 3 clinical trials.
“At BIDMC, our scientists are dedicated to translating innovation and scientific discoveries into clinical practice, and Dr. Barouch has made immeasurable contributions to fighting new and emerging infectious diseases,” said Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, Hon. ScD, chief academic officer of BIDMC and Beth Israel Lahey Health. “I congratulate Dr. Barouch on his well-deserved award.”
Additional co-investigators include John Mellors and Dimiter Dimitrov of the University of Pittsburgh; Sandhya Vasan, Morgane Rolland and Rasmi Thomas of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; Galit Alter and Bruce Walker of the Ragon Institute; Paula Cannon of the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California; Jon Karn of Case Western Reserve University; Wenjun Li of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Jim Riley of the University of Pennsylvania; Alex Shalek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Robert Siliciano of Johns Hopkins University; Serena Spudich of the Yale School of Medicine; and Mitchell Warren of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.
About Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School and consistently ranks as a national leader among independent hospitals in National Institutes of Health funding. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a part of Beth Israel Lahey Health, a health care system that brings together academic medical centers and teaching hospitals, community and specialty hospitals, more than 4,800 physicians and 36,000 employees in a shared mission to expand access to great care and advance the science and practice of medicine through groundbreaking research and education.