David Margolis, MD, and J. Victor Garcia, PhD, lead a team of investigators focused on the cure of HIV infection. Eradicating HIV is a complex challenge because the virus lives persistently in the body, hiding in latently infected cells that are able to escape the body’s immune system. Our researchers work closely with academic and industry partners in unique public-private ventures on the quest for a cure. The HIV Cure Center research portfolio is focused on reactivation of the latent virus combined with clearance strategies to effectively purge the HIV reservoir. Margolis and his team are recognized as the world’s experts, having been at the forefront of HIV latency reactivation and clearance research for decades.
The network is a worldwide collaborative clinical trials network that develops and tests the safety and efficacy of interventions designed to prevent the transmission of HIV. The HPTN has more than 50 ongoing or completed clinical trials in over 15 countries at more than 80 research sites. The HPTN strives to evaluate and implement cutting-edge biomedical, behavioral, and structural interventions to reduce the transmission of HIV. Institute Director Myron Cohen serves as co-Principal Investigator of the network along with Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, MPA.
The Center for AIDS Research is a three-member consortium of three complementary institutions — University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Research Triangle Institute, and FHI 360. Each institution adds significantly to the breadth of the research effort, drawing on UNC’s five health affairs schools (medicine, public health, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing), RTI’s focus on contract and grant-funded research, and FHI 360’s international contract and research portfolio, along with an international service mission largely supported by USAID and charitable foundations. The complementary strengths of these institutions make our CFAR unique and extend the reach of our activities. CFAR provides infrastructure to support four powerful approaches to understanding and combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic: clinical research, behavioral research, research into mechanisms at the molecular level, and educational outreach.
Martin Delaney Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication
CARE is a consortium of leading scientific experts in the field of HIV latency from several U.S. and European academic research institutions as well as major pharmaceutical partners (GSK, Merck and others). The investigators focus on the “target and clear” approach to elimination of HIV-infected cells that persist despite effective therapy. Researchers and collaborators received $23 million to extend studies in CARE until 2021.
UNC marked a milestone in 2017 launching, for the first time, three HIV prevention studies. The AMP Study investigates an infusion of antibodies to prevent infection. A second study, called DISCOVER, is looking at the drug Descovy as an oral alternative to Truvada. The final study, called Give PrEP a Shot, is testing a long-acting injection to prevent HIV.
Christopher B. Hurt, MD is the UNC’s principal investigator for the Give PrEP a Shot study. He is also co-investigator on a National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study to address the risk of HIV, hepatitis C and sexually transmitted infections among rural opioid users in eight counties of extreme western North Carolina. Hurt is serving as subproject director for provider outreach and education, in partnership with RTI International and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Behavior change through technology
The Institute’s Behavior and Technology Lab, or BATLab, seeks to facilitate health behavior change by conducting technology-based research on all aspects of sexual health including factors that impact the acquisition and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The BATLab is led by Domestic Division Director Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, and Global Division Director Kate Muessig, PhD. Current projects include AllyQuest, HMP Stigma, P3, Tough Talks, and Ending the HIV Epidemic: Integrated Technology.
The UNC/Emory Center for Innovative Technology (iTech) is also housed under the BATLab. iTech is part of the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN) and is co-led by Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, MPH, and her Emory colleague Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD. iTech is the first NIH-funded center to use technology in innovative ways to engage youth living with or at risk for HIV. The NIH awarded iTech $18 million in 2016 to fund six studies. An additional $13 million was awarded in 2017 to support another four trials. iTech continues to grow, currently operating 12 studies and partnering with 22 institutions. The BATLab also serves as an enrollment site for several iTech studies that focus on HIV prevention or intervention: ATN 138: YouTHrive, ATN 142: PrEPared, Protected, empowered (P3), ATN 143: COMPARE, and ATN 159: ePrEP.
Global HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit
Continuously funded since 1987, the UNC Global CTU is one of the leading HIV prevention clinical trials units in the country in terms of study accrual and enrollment of women and African-Americans. The unit oversees research sites in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro, North Carolina and in Lilongwe, Malawi and Lusaka, Zambia. Faculty in the Global CTU have published landmark papers on the treatment of HIV and its opportunistic infections as well as HIV prevention.
By the spring of 2020, the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many researchers affiliated with UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to pivot their studies to focus on testing, treatment and prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Here, a look at some of the projects underway in the last two years. Development … Continued
Overcoming HIV latency – induction of HIV in CD4+ T cells that lay dormant throughout the body – is a major step toward creating a cure for HIV. For the first time, scientists at UNC-Chapel Hill, Emory University, and Qura Therapeutics – a partnership between UNC and ViiV Healthcare – have shown that a new … Continued