Fasenmyer Foundation Grant Supports AIDS Research

Funding supports collaboration between leading immunologists who were among the first researchers to study the disease.

Immunologists Michael Lederman, MD, co-director of the Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Center for AIDS Research, and Leonard Calabrese, DO, head of Cleveland Clinic's Section of Clinical Immunology, have been working together for nearly 30 years in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Lederman and Calabrese were among the first researchers to study the virus when it emerged in the United States in the early 1980s. Now, a $3-million grant from the Richard J. Fasenmyer Foundation will support their most recent research endeavor—the Cleveland HIV Immunity Project.

The three-year research project explores the virus and HIV treatment from multiple angles, including why treatment fails in some HIV patients and what factors protect certain populations from HIV infection.

The researchers will also examine potential similarities between autoimmune diseases not previously thought to be related, such as HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

"In addition to helping us better understand why some people exposed to HIV do not get infected, this grant ultimately will help amplify current research to apply what we've learned about HIV immunology to better understand a host of other diseases—from rheumatology and endocrinology to cardiology and infectious diseases, among many others," says Lederman, who is a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, holds the Scott R. Inkley Professorship of General Internal Medicine and is a clinical immunologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

The project builds on both partner organizations' significant contributions to AIDS and immunology research. In 1983, two years after AIDS was first found in the United States, Case Western Reserve researchers published findings that AIDS is transmitted by blood products. A little more than a decade later, the university established the Midwest's first and only NIH-funded Center for AIDS Research, which today manages an annual NIH research budget in excess of $20 million.

The Fasenmyer Foundation has long supported AIDS research in Northeast Ohio. It established the R.J. Fasenmyer Chair in Clinical Immunology—which Calabrese now holds—in 1999 and the R.J. Fasenmyer Center for Clinical Immunology at Cleveland Clinic in 2005, allowing the hospital to advance its research in this vital area. The foundation, established by industrialist Richard Fasenmyer, has awarded millions of dollars to charitable causes, with particular focus on human health and higher education.