amfAR Launches "Countdown to a Cure"
At amfAR's New York Gala on Feb. 5, the Foundation for AIDS Research kicked off "Countdown to a Cure for HIV/AIDS," a research initiative aimed at finding a broadly applicable cure for HIV by 2020, with a goal of investing $100 million in HIV cure research over the next six years.
"A decade ago, curing HIV was thought by many, if not most, in the scientific community to be impossible," said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. "But the science has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, to the extent that there is now widespread agreement among researchers that a cure for HIV is possible -- and even probable."
Since it was founded nearly 30 years ago, amfAR has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research, and was the first organization to aggressively pursue cure-focused HIV research. In 2010, the Foundation launched the amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE), which supports collaborative teams of scientists at leading research institutions around the world in a directed effort to explore potential strategies for eliminating HIV infection.
"Countdown to a Cure" is designed to ratchet up the intensity of these efforts and to give laser-like focus to amfAR's research program over the next few years. amfAR also plans to form a "Cure Council," a volunteer group comprising some of the world's leading HIV/AIDS researchers to ensure that investments are made in the most promising areas.
"There is general consensus that the key obstacle to a cure is the reservoirs of HIV that persist in various parts of the body, impervious to antiretroviral therapy," said Dr. Rowena Johnston, amfAR vice president and director of research. amfAR has established a "research roadmap" that identifies the four steps necessary to clear this roadblock: Chart the precise locations of the reservoirs; understand how HIV persists within them; record how much virus they hold; and, finally, eliminate the virus.
The case of "The Berlin Patient," first reported in 2008, was a watershed moment in the field of HIV research and a proof of principle that a cure was possible. In 2013, researchers funded by amfAR were able to document the first case of a child to be cured, and a group of patients in France were reported to be in sustained remission (still HIV positive, but off treatment for several years with no sign of disease progression.)
"Today, we are at a historic juncture in the fight against AIDS," said amfAR Chairman of the Board Kenneth Cole. "With an improving economy, recent technological advances and momentum in the research community, now is the time to commit ourselves to finding an accessible cure and finally bring the global HIV/AIDS epidemic to an end."
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.
For more information on amfAR’s "Countdown to a Cure for HIV/AIDS," visit www.amfar.org/countdown.