NIH Re-Funds ACTG for the Next Seven Years

The AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Network has been re-funded for the next seven years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The ACTG is the largest global HIV research network. Dr. Joe Eron, UNC CFAR Clinical Core Director, is vice chair of the ACTG. 

“Founded in 1987, the ACTG was the first clinical trial network to focus on HIV. Its mission is to cure HIV and reduce the burden of disease due to HIV and its complications, including tuberculosis and viral hepatitis. Over the course of 2020, in addition to this work, ACTG has also been leading efforts to identify effective treatments for early COVID-19 by conducting the ACTIV-2 study.”

Read more from the ACTG Press Release here, published November 30, 2020. 

ACTG honors David Wohl, MD, with first Charles van der Horst Humanitarian Award

ACTG names second new award for former UNC neurology professor, Kevin Robertson.

DW and CVdH

David Wohl, left, takes a break while cycling with his former colleague and mentor, Charlie van der Horst

“The national AIDS Clinical Trials Group expanded its annual recognition program in 2020 with two new awards named for University of North Carolina faculty members who died in 2019: Charles van der Horst, MD, an infectious diseases physician and researcher, and Kevin Robertson, PhD, a professor of neurology and director of UNC’s AIDS Neurological Center.” Dr. van der Horst was the CFAR Developmental Core Director and Dr. Robertson was an active member of the CFAR community. 

“ACTG presented David Wohl, MD, a UNC infectious diseases physician and researcher, with its first Charles van der Horst Humanitarian Award.” Dr. Wohl is an investigator with the CFAR Clinical Core. “‘This award recognizes an ACTG member who exemplifies the ideals that informed Charlie’s life as an unwavering social justice advocate who dedicated his career to promoting universal access to HIV research, treatment and care regardless of setting, wealth or privilege,’ said Joseph Eron, MD, vice chair of the ACTG and chief of UNC’s Division of Infectious Diseases, in presenting the award to Wohl. Van der Horst died in June 2019 during an endurance swimming event in New York’s Hudson River.

‘David, like Charlie, is a force, and like Charlie, has boundless energy. David is always thinking, ‘Is this just?’ ‘Is this equitable?’ about everything we do,’ Eron said. In addition to Wohl’s extensive HIV work, Eron said, most recently he has been involved in UNC’s Covid response with initiatives that include taking testing out to rural counties that have been hit hard by the SARS-Co-2 virus. ‘His leadership in integrating the community into our studies has been masterful. His ability to incorporate people and to truly hear them has been very Charlie like.’

Wohl said he is grateful and humbled to be given an award named for his mentor. ‘I see this award as not so much about achievement but a reminder of the need to move forward and follow Charlie’s enduring example,’ he said. ‘I hope that everyone who receives it will take it as a message to do what Charlie always pushed us to do, which is to do better, be a better clinician, or researcher, or activist, or advocate, or colleague, or partner, or parent, or role model. Be a better person, just like Charlie.’

head shot of kevin robertson

Former neurology professor Kevin Robertson, PhD

The Kevin Robertson Memorial award honors the UNC neurologist who died in June 2019 after a long battle with cancer. Robertson was ‘unflappable, persistent, and remarkably dedicated to his work,’ said Judith Currier, MD, MSc, chair of ACTG. The award honors investigators who ‘exemplify Kevin’s compassion, collegiality, and commitment to junior investigators.’

Currier presented the award to Serena Spudich, MD, professor of neurology and chief of Neurological Infections & Global Neurology at Yale University. Spudich said Robertson was the person who first encouraged her to join ACTG and later to serve as vice chair of its neurology committee. ‘He believed in other people, he saw the best in other people,’ Spudich said. ‘He had a graciousness, he respected and cared for everyone’s opinions, which is why he was such a successful investigator. Many of us felt like we had a special light shining on us from knowing Kevin.'”

This story first appeared November 24, 2020 on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website.

CFAR Directors recognized in 2020 Global Highly Cited Researchers List

“Twenty-one UNC School of Medicine and 16 other UNC-Chapel Hill researchers have been named in Clarivate’s 2020 list of Highly Cited Researchers™, scientific pioneers from around the world whose names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science™ citation index.”

This includes Myron Cohen, MD, UNC CFAR Associate Director and International Core Associate Director, and Stephen Cole, Biostatistics Core Associate Director.

Read more and see the full list of UNC researchers here at the UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom. 

‘Major advance’: Long-acting injectable more effective than daily pill in preventing HIV

HPTN084“A long-acting injectable drug, cabotegravir, is safe and more effective than a daily pill in preventing HIV acquisition, according to results from a study of 3,127 cisgender women in sub-Saharan Africa. Led by UNC researchers beginning in November 2017, the study showed such promising results that a review board recommended ending the blinded phase of the trial early and sharing the results.

‘After years of evaluating HIV prevention strategies for women, I am thrilled that we have found CAB LA so effectively reduces HIV acquisition and provides women more choices in how to protect themselves,’ says Mina Hosseinipour, MD, HPTN 084 co-chair and scientific director of UNC Project-Malawi in Lilongwe, Malawi.”

Many UNC CFAR investigators, including Dr. Hosseinipour, and the CFAR’s international site with UNC Project-Malawi were involved with this study. 

This story first appeared November 10, 2020 on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website.

Promising COVID-19 drug is part of global study being led by UNC researchers

Rise Above COVID is a movement to find medicines for COVID-19 through the ACTIV-2 Study, a study for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 6 days. David Wohl, MD, is vice-chair of ACTIV-2, which is sponsored by the NIH with UNC CFAR researchers Joseph Eron, MD, and William Fischer, MD, as co-investigators. CFAR investigators are deeply involved in UNC’s COVID-19 response. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the emergency use of bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody developed by Eli Lilly to treat mild to moderate COVID-19.

“Bamlanivimab is one of the drugs that Wohl and a team of researchers are studying through the ACTIV-2 clinical trial. The trial is enrolling at over 60 U.S. sites and will soon expand globally, including Brazil, Peru, and South Africa. Begun in September, ACTIV-2 is now studying 300 participants, including 30 at UNC. Throughout the long-running study, investigators will add and remove promising treatments as they become available. The goal is to develop a treatment that prevents the virus from developing into a severe illness requiring hospitalization.

This story first appeared November 16, 2020 on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website.

HIVMA names Adimora 2020 clinical educator of the year

ada adimora headshotThe HIV Medicine Association, or HIVMA, has honored UNC infectious diseases professor Ada Adimora, MD, MPH, with its 2020 Clinical Educator Award. The award, presented during the annual IDWeek conference, recognizes Adimora’s “extraordinary contributions to advancing clinical education, with a focus on disseminating her research on the drivers of HIV-related racial disparities.”

Dr. Adimora is the Co-Director of the UNC CFAR. She is the Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor in UNC School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and a professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research focuses on the epidemiology of STDs and HIV in women and under-served populations in order to reduce transmission rates using community-based approaches. In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine. She joined the UNC infectious diseases faculty in 1993.

Read more here on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website. 

“Fighting Infections: The Long Term View” – 2020 Richardson Lecture with Dr. Myron Cohen

Mike Cohen Headshot (Square)Dr. Myron S. Cohen, MD, Associate Director of the UNC CFAR, presented the 2020 Richardson Lecture, “Fighting Infections: The Long Term View.” Dr. Cohen is the Yeargan-Bate Eminent Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He serves as the associate vice chancellor for global health at the university, and director for the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases (IGHID). His research focuses on the transmission and prevention of transmission of HIV and he is playing an important role in the search for a vaccine for COVID-19. 

When: September 17, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. EDT
Where: Via Zoom
Cost: Free
This event has passed. View the recorded lecture here.

Dr. Ada Adimora receives Thomas Jefferson Award

ada adimora headshotProfessor Ada Adimora is this year’s Thomas Jefferson Award recipient. A Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor in the School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Dr. Adimora’s research focuses on the epidemiology of STDs and HIV in woman and under-served populations in order to reduce transmission rates using community-based approaches. In 2019, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, which is regarded as one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.

 

‘Landmark’ study finds long-acting injectable drug highly effective in preventing HIV

Results from HPTN 083, a global large-scale study, show that the long-acting drug cabotegravir (CAB LA) is highly effective for prevention of HIV acquisition in cisgender men and transgender women. The study compares effectiveness of injections and oral tablets as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and is the first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention.

“The decades-long search for a vaccine to prevent HIV reached a new milestone as results from HPTN 083, a global large-scale study, show that the long-acting drug cabotegravir (CAB LA) protects uninfected people from HIV. The study, begun in December 2016, compared the safety and efficacy of the injectable drug, given every two months, to Truvada, a daily pill combining two drugs, for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. Findings showed that CAB LA lowered HIV incidence among cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men, leading to a promising alternative to daily medication.”

This story first appeared May 18, 2020 on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases website.