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AIDS Clinical Trials Group, co-led by UNC’s Joseph Eron, MD, also re-funded for seven years

Myron S. Cohen, MD, director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, and Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA, director of ICAP at Columbia University, have received a seven-year award from the National Institutes of Health for leadership of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) in collaboration with FHI 360.  The first year of support is $21,388,000.

The NIH funding enables the HPTN to focus on four priority areas:

  • identifying novel antiretroviral-based methods and delivery systems for HIV prevention
  • developing multi-purpose technologies for HIV prevention as well as for contraception and prevention of other sexually transmitted infections
  • evaluating broadly neutralizing antibodies alone or in a combination that prevent HIV acquisition, in collaboration with the HIV Vaccine Trials Network
  • designing and conducting population-specific integrated strategy studies that combine biomedical, socio-behavioral, and structural interventions for HIV prevention to maximize their effectiveness.

The HPTN will also continue as a partner in the COVID Prevention Network, a recently formed coalition working to evaluate biological agents, including vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, to prevent COVID-19.

“In the absence of an HIV vaccine, effective non-vaccine prevention tools and strategies have become critically important,” says Cohen. “This tenet is at the core of the HPTN’s mission, moving forward research to identify biomedical interventions and integrated strategies that help reduce the global incidence of HIV.”

Recognizing the challenges of long-term adherence to daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), HPTN has researched the safety and efficacy of long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB LA) for PrEP. Future approaches may include the use of implants, patches, and microneedles to deliver CAB LA and/or other long-acting antiretrovirals.

“We recognize that demonstrating the efficacy of a new agent is the first step in a critical research trajectory,” says El-Sadr. “Achieving impact requires reaching and engaging diverse populations and achieving high uptake and adherence with prevention methods, compelling the need for integration of biomedical with behavioral and structural interventions.”

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced the funding of HPTN as one of four HIV clinical trials networks it is funding over the next seven years to conduct the innovative, efficient clinical research needed to accelerate progress against the HIV pandemic. Also receiving continuing NIAID funding is the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, co-led by Joseph J. Eron, MD, chief of UNC’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

“There remain substantial challenges to developing safe and effective treatments for all people living with HIV and achieving the ultimate goal of sustained remission or an HIV cure,” says Eron. “The ACTG has the infrastructure, expertise, and drive to realize these goals.”

NIAID also awarded grants to 35 U.S. and international institutions, including the University of North Carolina, selected as HIV clinical trials units (see UNC clinical trials unit award story).

“Achieving a durable end to the HIV pandemic will require continued development of new HIV prevention and treatment strategies, as well as optimal implementation of existing tools,” says Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the NIAID. “The new network structure will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of NIH’s HIV clinical trial operations to expediently address the critical research questions that will bring us closer to this goal, while always ensuring the safety of clinical trial participants.”

The nonprofit FHI 360, based in Durham, NC, serves as the leadership and operations center for the HPTN. “FHI 360 is committed to HIV prevention efforts as we all work towards reducing the rate of new HIV infections in populations deemed at greatest risk around the world,” says Dr. Nirupama Sista, PhD, director of the HPTN Leadership and Operations Center at FHI 360.

Read NIH story on HIV clinical trials networks funding