Research Assistant Earns Impact Award

Thibaut Davy-Méndez earns Impact Award

Thibaut Davy-Méndez, photo by Amy Stern

Each department may nominate three current masters or doctoral students or recent graduates per year for the Impact and Horizon Award.  Their research should have direct impact on North Carolina.  

Impact Award

On Thursday, April 5, Thibaut Davy-Méndez will receive one of the 2018 UNC Graduate Education Advancement Board Impact Award for his work related to antiretroviral therapy resistance.  Of particular import was his contributions to a study whose findings were presented at the 2017 Conference Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI): resistance to newer classes of antiretroviral drugs was significantly lower than older classes of drugs.  These findings, Davy-Méndez believes, will help UNC HIV care providers inform their clinical practice.

CFAR Connection

A Research Assistant with the UNC CFAR Clinical Core, Davy-Méndez credits the support of his mentors Joe Eron, MD, and Sonia Napravnik, PhD.

Learn More

For a more extensive story about Thibaut Davy-Méndez’ Impact Award, please visit the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases website.

 

Biostatistics Core presents work at Summer Conferences

Yinyan & Ilana

Ilana Trumble from the CFAR Biostatistics Core presented a poster at the Collaboratory of AIDS Researchers for Eradication (CARE) Annual Meeting in June 2017, together with Yinyan Xu. This work from the Goonetilleke Lab (G lab) is entitled “Longitudinal assessment of baseline variation in HIV-1 specific T cell responses in HIV-1 infected, durably suppressed individuals.” For more information on the G lab, click here.

Wang Cheng Poster

Wang Cheng, visiting scholar from UNC Project China, is researching the generalizability of online randomized control trials. His work was presented at the Atlantic Causal Inference Conference, Chapel Hill, NC, May 2017. This work was a joint collaboration between UNC Project China, the Chinese Center for Disease Control (C-CDC), and the UNC CFAR Biostatistics Core. For more information about UNC Project China, click here.

UNC CFAR Spring 2017 Networking Event

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Congressman David Price

On May 8, 2017, the UNC CFAR Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Core hosted the Spring 2017 Networking Event. The theme of this month’s event was “HIV Research that Reaches Policymakers: Part I with Congressman David Price D-NC-04”.

David Price represents North Carolina’s Fourth District – a rapidly growing, research-and-education-focused district that includes parts of Orange, Durham, and Wake counties. He received his undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill and went to Yale University to earn a Bachelor of Divinity and Ph.D. in Political Science. Before he began serving in Congress in 1987, Price was a Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Duke University. He is the author of four books on Congress and the American political system. Price currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is the ranking member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Appropriations subcommittees covering homeland security, State Department, and foreign operations funding.

Congressman Price addresses attendees at the Networking Event

Congressman Price addresses attendees at the Networking Event

Congressman Price shared his perspective on how researchers can best focus their outreach efforts to inform policy makers about their research findings and shared personal examples of how he used research to inform policy.  He also shared the importance of having a broad viewpoint on health issues and working as a coalition to advocate for funding.

Following the talk, Dr. Ronald Strauss, Administrative Core Consultant for the UNC CFAR, moderated a question & answer session with Congressman Price and attendees. Attendees posed questions around the future of HIV research and prevention, with a specific focus on PrEP and HIV in the South. Congressman Price emphasized the importance of community partnerships and well-developed grassroots outreach efforts. Price discussed the value of seeking funding through the ACA to promote research and further inquiry in the field of health maintenance, diagnosis and wellness. A strong emphasis was placed on developing positive working relationships with community health centers, and Price encouraged attendees to think strategically about how we support the work of those combatting health challenges outside of the HIV/AIDS field. Congressman Price articulated that the most lasting impact is made when researchers work cooperatively to address health disparities. He encouraged attendees to connect with national advocacy groups like the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) United, an alliance of stakeholders from across the non-defense sectors, to call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this event with Congressman Price in the fall!

New HIV Reservoir Identified by UNC Team

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HIV cure research to date has focused on clearing the virus from T cells, a type of white blood cell that is an essential part of the immune system. Yet investigators in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have found the virus persists in HIV-infected macrophages. Macrophages are large white blood cells found in tissues throughout the body including the liver, lung, bone marrow and brain. The discovery of this additional viral reservoir has significant implications for HIV cure research. These findings were published in Nature Medicine on Monday, April 17.

“These results are paradigm changing because they demonstrate that cells other than T cells can serve as a reservoir for HIV,” said Jenna Honeycutt, Ph.D., lead-author and postdoctoral research associate in the UNC Division of Infectious Diseases. “The fact that HIV-infected macrophages can persist means that any possible therapeutic intervention to eradicate HIV might have to target two very different types of cells.”

Last spring, this laboratory lead by J. Victor Garcia, Ph. D., professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at UNC School of Medicine, demonstrated the ability of tissue macrophages to support HIV replication in vivo in the total absence of human T cells. But how macrophages would respond to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and whether macrophages represented a reservoir for HIV after treatment were unknown.

Macrophages are myeloid lineage cells that have been implicated in HIV pathogenesis and in the trafficking of virus into the brain. Using a humanized myeloid-only mouse (MoM) model devoid of T cells, Garcia and his team showed that ART strongly suppresses HIV replication in tissue macrophages. Yet when HIV treatment was interrupted, viral rebound was observed in one third of the animals. This is consistent with the establishment of persistent infection in tissue macrophages.

“This is the first report demonstrating that tissue macrophages can be infected and that they respond to antiretroviral therapy,” Honeycutt said. “In addition, we show that productively infected macrophages can persist despite ART; and most importantly, that they can reinitiate and sustain infection upon therapy interruption even in the absence of T cells – the major target of HIV infection.”

Now that Garcia and his team know HIV persists in macrophages, the next step will be to determine what regulates HIV persistence in tissue macrophages, where in the body persistently infected macrophages reside during HIV treatment and how macrophages respond to possible therapeutic interventions aimed at eradicating HIV from the body.

The UNC School of Medicine team collaborated with scientists in UNC’s Department of Biostatistics, the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, and the Departments of Medicine and Pathology at the University of California at San Diego. This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Self-Swabbing Increases STD Screens

 

The number of cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea increased from 2014 to 2015 in North Carolina. This prompted a multidisciplinary group in the UNC Infectious Diseases Clinic to introduce several interventions, including self-swabbing, to screen more patients for sexually transmitted diseases.

The ID Clinic inside the NC Memorial Hospital on Carolina’s campus is one of a few clinics in the state giving patients the option to screen themselves for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Self-swabbing is one of a handful of interventions created by a multidisciplinary quality improvement group including the clinic’s nurses, social workers, a certified medical assistant and a provider.

“Sex is normal and healthy,” says Ellen McAngus, LCSWA, a social work practitioner in the ID Clinic. “But we need to give our patients the right tools to protect themselves and their partners.”

UNC ID Clinic providers manage the care for 1,800 people living with HIV. In 2015, clinic nurse Anita Holt, RN, and Associate Clinic Director Amy Heine, FNP, noticed screening rates for syphilis in patients living with HIV were down, despite there being an increase in syphilis cases in North Carolina. In fact, the number of syphilis cases in the state increased by 64 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

Through photos, an infographic and a video, learn more about the team’s progress in educating their patients about sexual health.

The Role of Messaging in Reducing STI Transmission

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UNC School of Media and Journalism doctoral alumna Diane Francis ’16 (PhD),  co-investigators on a 2014 Developmental Award from the UNC CFAR, recently received the 2017 GEAB Impact Award for her work on the Role of Messaging in Reducing STI Transmission.

Women account for almost 25 percent of new HIV infections in North Carolina, with African-American women representing 71 percent of those diagnoses, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Condoms can prevent transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Yet young women, in particular, may experience embarrassment when accessing condoms. To improve condom access for young African-American women, Diane Francis, Ph.D., evaluated an innovative condom distribution and health communication initiative. Due to the focus on young African-American women, the study took place at an all-women’s historically black college/university (HBCU) in the state.

Dispensers featuring targeted safer sex messages were installed in dormitory bathrooms across the HBCU campus. The UNC-Chapel Hill Center for AIDS Research funded the initiative; project members were co-principal investigators Francis and Seth Noar, Ph.D., of UNC-Chapel Hill and co-investigator Deborah Fortune, Ph.D., of North Carolina Central University. Prior to launching the initiative, the team conducted extensive research to develop the messages that were placed on the dispensers.

Surveys were collected immediately before and three months after the dispensers were installed. Follow-up interviews also explored how students felt about the dispensers and messages. The initiative was found to improve perceptions of condom access and to support safer sex behaviors. The college plans to continue the campus program, even though the study has ended. Francis’ research demonstrates the effectiveness of initiatives combining health communication and condom distribution toward the goal of reducing HIV/STI transmission in North Carolina.

“Diane’s deep commitment to this project made it so successful. I am proud that her study not only contributed to the science in this area, but also changed the safer sex climate on a college campus in ways that will prevent AIDS and other STDs,” said adviser Seth Noar, Ph.D.

UNC to Test Injectable Long-Acting Implant to Prevent HIV

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have received a three-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a new implantable drug delivery system for long-lasting HIV-prevention.

Scientists in the UNC School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy are developing an injectable drug delivery system that forms an implant that steadily releases anti-HIV medication over long periods of time.

The injectable formulation includes an anti-HIV drug, a polymer and a solvent. The three-compound liquid will solidify once injected under the skin. As the polymer slowly degrades, the drug is released. Efficacy of the new formulation to prevent HIV transmission will be evaluated using state of the art pre-clinical models developed at UNC.

Currently, a once-daily pill exists to prevent HIV infection. However, adherence to this daily regimen can be challenging for some people.

“This long-acting injectable formulation could provide a discrete and efficient method to protect against HIV infection and improve adherence, which is one of the major challenges of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,” said Rahima Benhabbour, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and one of the study’s co-principal investigators. “The formulation is adaptable to a number of drugs alone or in combination and can be fine tuned to meet a targeted release regimen.”

Read more here..

IRB Pop-Up Event at the UNC Clinical and Translational Research Center

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 10.16.18 PMCheck out this upcoming IRB pop-up event from our friends at UNC School of Medicine!

IRB Pop-ups provide on-campus IRB consultations for researchers. IRB Analysts will have access to your IRB application and can answer questions about existing or proposed research.

Apr 19, 2017, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Clinical and Translational Research Center
Burnett-Womack 1042
Contact Phone: 919-966-3113

If you can’t make the next Pop-up but have questions, please call IRB at 919-966-3113 or email irb_questions@unc.edu.

PLOS Medicine Special Issue: Advances in HIV Prevention, Treatment and Cure

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The editors of PLOS Medicine are delighted to announce a forthcoming Special Issue focused on HIV research, along with guest editors Drs Linda-Gail Bekker, Steven Deeks and Sharon Lewin. Submissions are now being invited, with a deadline of June 9, 2017.

PLOS Medicine, the leading open access medical journal published by PLOS, welcomes submission of reports of high-quality research studies to be considered for publication in a special issue covering advances in the prevention, treatment and cure of HIV infection. This special issue, to be published at the end of 2017, will be guest edited by Dr Linda-Gail Bekker of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town; Dr Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco; and Dr Sharon Lewin of the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity, University of Melbourne and Royal Melbourne Hospital. Alongside research papers, the special issue will include commissioned content contributed by leaders in the field.

HIV infection continues to pose a critical risk to health in many countries, with 2.1 million people (including 150,000 children) estimated by UNAIDS to have been newly infected in 2015. Due to intensive efforts to diagnose and treat people with HIV, 18.2 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy according to the most recent estimates. However, given an estimated total HIV-infected population of 36.7 million at the end of 2015, a substantial treatment gap leaves many millions of people at risk of AIDS-related diseases and, if unaware of their status, likely to infect others.

For this issue, the editors are inviting reports of high-quality research studies with the potential to inform clinical practice or thinking, focused on:

  • State of the global HIV epidemic—large-scale epidemiological studies addressing important topics, including progress towards UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets and the status of key populations
  • HIV prevention—clinical research aimed at development of vaccines, drugs and biomedical approaches
  • Clinical and epidemiological studies seeking to characterize and improve management of HIV infection and co-morbidities
  • Scientifically rigorous and practically relevant implementation research studies focused on HIV prevention and treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries
  • Towards a cure for HIV infection—translational and clinical studies aiming to achieve control or elimination of HIV

Please submit your manuscript at: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/s/submit-now. The deadline is June 9th, 2017.

Presubmission inquiries are not required, but do indicate your interest in the special issue in your cover letter. Questions about the special issue can be directed to plosmedicine@plos.org.

2017 CFAR Developmental Award Webinar – March 28

The UNC Center For AIDS Research (CFAR) Developmental Core will be conducting a webinar on Tues., March 28th, at 9 am EDT.  This free webinar will focus on applying for and implementing a 2017 CFAR Developmental Award, and will address the application process, NIH requirements, necessary documents, and more.  Both domestic and international research will be addressed and questions are welcomed.  You may send your questions to us beforehand or ask them via text at the time of the webinar.

To register, email cathy@unc.edu.  We will send out directions on how to attend the webinar at the time of your registration.