Seeking Natural ways to suppress HIV

Since its founding in 1994, the Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) has been dedicated to coordinating an ever-expanding spectrum of AIDS-related research initiatives. Over the past year, the center has been instrumental in catalyzing an array of new programs, including the founding of the Case Center for Proteomics and HIV Drug Abuse, led by Mark Chance, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry; and participation in a major program on HIV pathogenesis, led by Michael Lederman, MD, the Scott R. Inkley Professor of Medicine and co-director of the CFAR.

Currently, Lederman is spearheading the CFAR’s participation in the Microbicide Trials Network, established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to spur the development of safe, effective and affordable HIV microbicides. In July 2008, the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit opened its first microbicide trial in Cleveland, which is studying two female-controlled HIV prevention methods.

Additionally, the center’s director, Jonathan Karn, PhD, Reinberger Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Case Western Reserve, was recently awarded an Avant-Garde Grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The $3.7 million award will fund research over the next five years aimed at finding natural mechanisms to block HIV replication within cells. “Lifelong antiretroviral therapy not only presents formidable problems in terms of patient management, cost and long-term toxicities, but also fails to eradicate the virus from infected individuals,” says Karn.

The CFAR program was originally created by the NIH to promote collaboration between basic and clinical researchers on AIDS-related projects. With 160 faculty members, the Case Western Reserve CFAR provides clinical and technological support to researchers working on AIDS-related projects at the university’s School of Medicine, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center and Cleveland Clinic, as well as several international sites. It represents a research portfolio of more than $20 million annually. There are 21 such centers currently funded by the NIH, representing institutions that have major research commitments to HIV/AIDS. Case Western Reserve’s center is the only CFAR located in the Midwest.