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Highlights from Past Avant-Garde Awardees

David Smith, M.D. M.A.S.

Dr. David SmithDavid Smith, M.D. M.A.S.

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2012—was given for the project entitled “Molecular epidemiology for HIV prevention for drug users and other risk groups.” What was your vision for this concept?

My vision was for us to characterize the transmission network of HIV in the San Diego and Tijuana region. We could use that information to develop interventions to effectively target the network and prevent new infections...Read More

David D. Ho, M.D.

Dr. David HoDavid Ho, Scientific Director & CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, at this laboratory in New York City.

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2011—was given for the project entitled Monthly Antiretroviral Therapy Using Multispecific HIV Neutralizing Antibodies.”  What was your vision for this concept?

We wanted to engineer a library of antibodies that would have unique and favorable properties in blocking HIV infection in vitro. All of these bispecific antibodies were constructed with one arm directed at the virus receptor CD4, and with the other arm directed to the virus glycoprotein gp160. The goal is to identify one or several antibodies that would have potent and broad neutralizing activity against a large panel of HIV strains. Since antibodies have favorable pharmacokinetic profiles, our antibodies could become candidate antiviral agents that may be administered on a monthly basis, thereby offering an alternative way of treating HIV infection in the future...Read More

Dr. Eric Verdin, M.D.

Dr. Eric VerdinDrs. Emilie Battivelli, Emilie Besnard, and Eric Verdin discuss the results from a test of a drug that is involved in the modulation of HIV latency and could repress HIV transcription in CD4 T cells. Photo credit: Chris Goodfellow/Gladstone Institutes

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2010—was given for the project entitled “Novel Model for HIV Latency in Primary Memory T Cells.”  What was your vision for this concept?

The HIV virus persists in a hidden state—called latency—in HIV-infected patients treated with anti-HIV drugs, and when the drugs are stopped, the virus reemerges from these latently infected cells. For this reason, patients need to be treated for life, and latent HIV represents a major barrier to a cure. However, latency has been very difficult to study because cells carrying latent HIV are extremely rare in patients (it has been estimated that less than one cell in 100,000 carries latent HIV). Therefore, the goal of our project was to establish an experimental model system in the laboratory in which latency could be studied and better understood. Our ultimate aim is to identify the mechanism behind latency and to develop a novel treatment to eliminate latent HIV, which we hope could one day be used to develop a cure for HIV infection...Read More

Dana H. Gabuzda, M.D.

Dr. Dana GabzudaDr. Dana Gabzuda

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2009—was given for the project entitled “Systems Biology of Immune Reconstitution in HIV/AIDS.”  What was your vision for this concept?

My vision was to apply new computational methods to study multidimensional behavioral and biomedical data and use these methods to achieve a systems-level understanding of factors that influence restoration of immune function and other outcomes in people with HIV, and how these factors interact with each other. I felt it was important to derive a more global view of individual health trajectories by examining multiple factors at the same time — demographics, behaviors, substance abuse, mental health, physical health, and laboratory markers of human physiology. Then use this information to develop models that help to explain differences in health trajectories and test if these models are valid across other populations...Read More

Jerome Groopman, M.D.

Dr. Jerome GroopmanDr. Jerome Groopman

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2008—was given for the project entitled Inhibition of HIV at the Immune Synapse Utilizing Novel Ligands and Receptors.” What was your vision for this concept?

My vision was to pursue a central finding in how the virus first enters the body and is passed on to vulnerable cells of the immune system. This occurs at a junction between a specialized white cell and the key orchestrator of the immune response, the helper T-cell. My idea was to first study whether newly discovered naturally occurring proteins in the body could block the handing-off of HIV from the white cell to the T-cell at this unique junction termed the “immune synapse.” Then, I wanted to know how certain drugs of abuse, including cannabinoids and cocaine, might enhance the transmission of the virus so that specific targeted therapies might one day be developed to protect people from contracting the virus...Read More

Dr. Julio Montaner, M.D.

Dr. Julio MontanerDr. Julio Montaner, M.D.

Your Avant-Garde award—awarded in 2008—was given for the project entitled “Seek and Treat for Optimal Outcomes and Prevention in HIV & AIDS in IDUs.” What was your vision for this concept?

The idea of Treatment as Prevention (TasP) originated from our work in the early 1990s when we came upon the HIV drug cocktail that we now know as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). With the effects of the treatment in reducing patients’ viral loads to undetectable levels, the potential for prevention of disease progression to AIDS and death, and secondarily HIV transmission rapidly became apparent...Read More

This page was last updated February 2015