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May 15, 2013

NIH names University a 'Center for AIDS Research'

The University was named a Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) by the National Institutes of Health, a designation that funds $7.5 million for HIV/AIDS work across the University and places Rochester among the best in the nation for research to improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of the disease.

The award spans five years and will be used to form unique collaborations, such as between the Department of Neurology at the Medical Center and the Institute of Optics on the River Campus, with the goal of delivering high-impact discoveries. It will also support the career development of the next generation of HIV/AIDS researchers—young investigators who will transform today’s discoveries into new treatments or practices—through mentoring programs and pilot grants.

Stephen Dewhurst, vice dean for research at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and head of the University’s Center for AIDS Research says, “This award recognizes that the AIDS research conducted here is truly outstanding, thanks to the hard work, dedication and innovative thinking of our faculty and staff. It will make the research we’re doing now even better and will allow us to take our work in many new directions, which is very exciting.”

Only institutions with a certain level of existing grant funding are able to compete for a CFAR designation. With $15.3 million in HIV/AIDS funding in 2011 and a competitive application that emphasized Rochester’s research strengths, including the disease’s influence on the brain, HIV and aging and RNA biology, the University is now one of 18 centers across the country.

“To have a Center for AIDS Research here is quite exceptional and confirms the University’s place in the big leagues of AIDS research,” says Michael Keefer, director of the University’s NIH-supported HIV Vaccine Trials Unit and coleader of Rochester’s CFAR. “We’ve conducted AIDS vaccine research at the University for more than 20 years and this gives us the opportunity to reach out more broadly across the institution than ever before in search of new ideas, talent, and inspiration.”

The CFAR will include two working groups. The first, led by Harris (Handy) Gelbard, director of the Center for Neural Development and Disease and an international expert on HIV-associated dementia, will focus on the virus’s affect on the brain and what it means for aging patients.

David Mathews, associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, will head a second working group focused the RNA biology of HIV.

Other major players in the new center include Amneris Luque, head of the AIDS Center, and James McMahon, associate professor in the School of Nursing, who will jointly direct the CFAR’s clinical and translational research activities. anjay Maggirwar, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, will lead the center’s basic research activities, and Hulin Wu, director of the Center for Integrative Bioinformatics and Experimental Mathematics, will oversee the center’s biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biomathematical modeling research activities and support services. Jennifer Lynch, senior associate, will serve as the center’s main administrator.

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