amfAR - Innovation Grants: Exploring the potential for HIV eradication

amfAR’s $100 million Countdown to a Cure initiative is aimed at developing the scientific basis of a cure for HIV by the end of 2020. The urgency of our goal demands that we direct our funding to studies that uncover vital knowledge directly applicable to curing HIV in people living with HIV/AIDS. amfAR expects to solicit projects through this RFP that provide proofs of concept in clinical, preclinical or basic research that are crucial to informing and designing future curative interventions.
Persistent reservoirs of virus not cleared by antiretroviral therapy (ART) represent the main barrier to a cure for HIV. amfAR intends to fund research that explores all curative approaches, including reservoir removal, elimination of mechanisms that sustain the reservoir, editing the provirus sufficiently to render it benign, or suppressing the intact provirus, thus preventing pathogenicity.  

Verifying that a cure has been achieved is a key challenge in HIV research. A delay to viral rebound following treatment interruption is currently the most definitive way to determine whether a curative intervention has worked. Outcomes of research funded through this RFP are expected to inform ensuing clinical or preclinical studies that aim to predict whether a cure has been achieved, such as by determining delay to viral rebound following treatment interruption.

Purpose of RFP
To fund biomedical research necessary to inform and design interventions to 1) cure HIV, defined by the eradication of all pathogenic virus from the body, or 2) bring about a state of remission whereby the virus is controlled in the absence of ART and the person is no longer infectious.  

Specific areas of interest
In order of priority:
1. Proof-of-concept clinical studies testing cure interventions
2. Disabling or eradicating the HIV reservoir
3. Discovery and targeting of novel mechanisms to disrupt HIV reservoir persistence

Available funding
Innovation Grants provide funding of up to $200,000 (including indirect costs at a maximum rate of 20%) over a two-year performance period beginning on July 1.

Expected outcome
Research findings that provide strong preliminary data that inform next-stage clinical or preclinical studies testing curative interventions. 

HIV researchers holding a doctoral degree and affiliated with nonprofit research institutes are eligible to apply.

Areas of Interest
1. Clinical proof of concept
Treatments currently approved for use in humans could have value in eliminating or disabling the viral reservoir in HIV-infected individuals and may permanently prevent viral rebound in the absence of ART.  Clinical proof-of-concept studies are expected to enroll a circumscribed number of HIV-positive individuals to test the intervention, use historical controls, and measure endpoints that predict cure or remission.  

2. Approaches that lead to disabling or eradicating the HIV reservoir
Research proposing novel mechanisms or substantially improved approaches to eradicating or permanently disabling the reservoir cells or the provirus are needed. Screens for latency-reversing agents will be considered low priority.

3. Mechanisms that drive HIV reservoir persistence
Research aimed at discovering and targeting novel mechanisms that maintain the viral reservoir are needed. Research is expected to define, for example, novel and targetable signaling mechanisms that maintain the reservoir. Studies aimed at simply describing mechanisms of persistence are of extremely low priority.

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