Drug Development

Southern Research Awarded New $22 Million NIAID-DAIDS Contract to Support Ground-Breaking HIV Cure Research

July 7, 2015


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – July 7, 2015 – Southern Research has been awarded a seven-year contract of up to $22 million to support research that could contribute to the cure of HIV disease. Under this contract, Southern Research will develop and standardize assays that quantitate latent reservoirs of HIV.

“This is a revolutionary area in HIV research that is opening up new avenues for us in infectious diseases,” said Southern Research President and CEO Art Tipton, Ph.D. “It supports our 24-year legacy in HIV drug discovery and development for government and pharmaceutical clients.”

HIV replication can be effectively suppressed in infected patients with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which reduces the level of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level. However, HIV remains a chronic infection due to its ability to stay hidden within these infected blood cells – latent reservoirs – that are invisible to the body’s immune defenses and are not sensitive to anti-HIV drugs. When a latently infected cell is reactivated the cell begins to produce HIV again.

In order to support the HIV cure initiative, Southern Research was awarded the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) contract HHSN272201500017C, “Quantitative Viral Outgrowth Assay (QVOA) Service Resource.” The QVOA is the current best assay for characterizing the latent viral reservoir. However, the assay is not available to many laboratories conducting HIV cure research because it is expensive and labor intensive. Southern Research will expand access to the QVOA and support future clinical research focused on eliminating the latent viral reservoir.

In addition to providing the QVOA as a service resource, Southern Research will work with experts in the field of HIV latency and cure research to develop alternative assays that are more sensitive, less costly, can be completed more rapidly, and require smaller amounts of blood than QVOA. Southern Research will also provide training in the performance of the QVOA to investigators interested in running the assay in their laboratories.

“Our team is excited and energized to be partnering with the HIV research community to enhance our collective understanding of the latent reservoirs of HIV in support of the HIV cure initiative,” said Southern Research Director, Infectious Disease Research and Principal Investigator for the contract Mike Murray, Ph.D.

Facts About HIV

  • Currently, there is no cure for AIDS caused by HIV, and the virus continues to spread despite the increased global commitment to controlling the pandemic.
  • HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 39 million people have died since the first cases were reported in 1981.
  • In 2013, globally, there were more than 35 million people living with HIV: 2.1 million people became newly infected and 1.5 million died.
  • In the U.S., there are more than 30 FDA approved HIV medicines. A variety of interventional agents are used in combination to control virus replication and successfully manage the disease, and they show promise in prevention of new infections.
  • Millions are relying on antiretroviral therapy (ART) until a sterilizing cure can be identified, but according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Signs report, only 3 in 10 people living with HIV have achieved viral suppression.
  • Oral administration of ART was approved worldwide to inhibit transmission in high risk populations and mother-to-child transmissions.
  • In 2013, approximately 12 million people received ART, but drug resistance is an ongoing issue.

About Southern Research
Southern Research is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with nearly 500 scientists and engineers working across four divisions: drug discovery, drug development, engineering, and energy and environment.

  • We’re developing 18 drugs to combat various forms of cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney disease, and Parkinson’s, among others.
  • We’ve developed seven FDA-approved cancer drugs.
  • We’re developing new medical devices.
  • We’re helping to launch manned missions to Mars.
  • We’re making the air and water cleaner here on Earth.

We work on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, major aerospace firms, utility companies, and other private and government organizations as we solve the world’s hardest problems.

Southern Research, founded in 1941, is headquartered in Birmingham with additional laboratories and offices in Wilsonville and Huntsville, Frederick, Maryland, Durham, North Carolina, Cartersville, Georgia, and Houston. Visit SouthernResearch.org for more information.


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