The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a seven-year, more than $40 million award from the National Institutes of Health for a clinical trials unit that will implement the scientific agendas of five NIH networks devoted to HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and cure research.
UNC has had a continuously funded AIDS Clinical Trials Unit since 1987. The latest competitive funding renewal consolidates HIV clinical research operations in North Carolina, Malawi, and Zambia into a Global HIV Prevention and Treatment Clinical Trials Unit (UNC Global CTU). The UNC Global CTU will receive approximately $5.5 million in the first year to continue and develop studies addressing the prevention, treatment, and cure of HIV infection.
"Researchers at Carolina have been at the forefront of the AIDS epidemic from day one," said Marschall Runge, MD, PhD, executive dean of the UNC School of Medicine. "This award recognizes the scientific leadership and global reach of the UNC HIV/AIDS enterprise."
UNC is home to a top-10 ranked HIV/AIDS program, involving dozens of researchers from laboratory scientists and clinicians to epidemiologists and policy experts. Between 2008 and 2012, the university received approximately $430 million in external research funding for HIV. The landmark study HPTN 052--named "Breakthrough of the Year" in 2011--was spearheaded by UNC researchers. It showed that HIV treatment prevents transmission of the virus. UNC is also home to one of the largest HIV cure initiatives in the world.
The new grant provides funding through 2021 for five clinical research sites that make up the UNC Global CTU: Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Greensboro, N.C.; Lilongwe, Malawi; and Lusaka, Zambia. The Southeastern United States and sub-Saharan Africa represent some of the most severely affected populations in the United States and worldwide.
The UNC Global CTU will lead clinical research that addresses treatment of HIV and associated illness in adults and children, including tuberculosis and viral hepatitis co-infections. Prevention research will include studies of behavior change, treatment as prevention, pre-exposure prophylaxis, HIV vaccines, and microbicides. Intensive clinical studies to advance a cure for HIV will be a critical focus of the unit.
The UNC Global CTU is led by three co-principal investigators from the UNC School of Medicine: Joseph Eron, MD, professor of medicine; Jeffrey Stringer, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology; and Mina Hosseinipour, MD, MPH, professor of medicine. The CTU is housed in the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.
Although known for just 30 years, the human immunodeficiency virus has touched every corner of the globe, with 35 million people infected and 25 million lives lost. Not only is HIV a fierce biological opponent, but it is complicated by social factors related to stigma and the disproportionate burden on poor and marginalized populations.
"This disease will not be conquered with single-pronged solutions," said Eron, who also serves as CTU project director. "The complexity of HIV requires a multidisciplinary approach. Our CTU brings together a broad range of leading investigators whose expertise is focused on the greatest disease challenge of our time."
The CTU leadership team also includes site leaders Benjamin Chi, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology (Zambia); Francis Martinson, MD, PhD, research associate professor of medicine (Malawi); Cornelius van Dam, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine (Greensboro); David Wohl, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine (Chapel Hill); international operations director Irving Hoffman, PA, MPH, professor of medicine; and Cheryl Marcus, BSN, CTU coordinator and clinical research director.
The five NIH HIV/AIDS networks are: AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network (IMPAACT), and Microbicide Trials Network (MTN).
In 1999, UNC established UNC Project-Malawi in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health. UNC Project-Malawi seeks to identify innovative, culturally acceptable, and affordable methods to improve the health of the people of Malawi through research, health systems strengthening, prevention, training, and care.
UNC faculty members in Zambia conduct research in affiliation with the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). Founded in 2001, the mission of CIDRZ is to improve access to quality healthcare in Zambia through innovative capacity development, exceptional implementation science and research, and effective and sustainable public health programs.
The UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases is a pan-university organization founded in 2007 and led by Myron Cohen, MD, the associate vice chancellor for global health and Yeargan-Bate Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and Epidemiology. Its mission is to harness the full resources of the university and its partners to solve global health problems, reduce the burden of disease, and cultivate the next generation of global health leaders. http://globalhealth.