Fort Lauderdale, Florida, July 8, 2015 (Newswire.com) - New research is taking place all around the world in the fight to find a cure for AIDS. But did you know that some critical research is taking place in our own backyard? That’s why The Campbell Foundation recently provided three South Florida research centers each with $30,000 fast-track grants to assist them with their ground-breaking investigations.
At the Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Dr. Ana Puga and Marie Hayes, MSW, are researching the “real world feasibility and psychological impact” of the availability of Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk youth and couples where one is HIV-positive and the other is not. PrEP is a once-a-day pill that prevents HIV infection. Those who do not have HIV, but who are at substantial risk of becoming infected can take it.
"While we fund nonprofit labs across the U.S. and around the world, we wanted to show our commitment to the local HIV research efforts happening right here in our backyard."
Bill Venuti, The Campbell Foundation Trustee
“PrEP has been shown to reduce the transmission risk from a positive to a negative person above the use of condoms. So, it’s really important to see why people are not using PrEP, how they can access it and whether it impacts their lives in a positive way to prevent transmission from a positive person to another in a committed relationship,” Dr. Puga said.
The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's Dr. Mathias Lichtenheld, is researching two projects. He believes the results of one will reduce or prevent acute HIV infections and the other will slow down the process of chronic HIV infections/AIDS.
“Both projects look at the interaction of the immune system with HIV, initially when the virus infects the first human cell, and then far down the road when the immune system has been tricked by the disease to exhaust itself. The projects were born out of years of molecular biology research,” Dr. Lichtenheld said.
Dr. Massimo Caputi, associate professor of Biomedical Science at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, is conducting the third project being funded by The Campbell Foundation. It is aimed at using a cellular protein named SRSF1 to inhibit HIV replication in T-cells. These cells play a key role in a person’s immune system and are attacked and destroyed by the virus.
“This protein (SRSF1) acts by disrupting the mechanisms that produce the viral proteins,” said Dr. Caputi. “Recently, we have shown that a modified version of the SRSF1 protein can inhibit replication of the virus by over 3,000 fold, without altering the viability of the cells treated.”
More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8 percent) are unaware of their infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Florida has served as ground zero for new HIV cases.
“The Campbell Foundation is based in Fort Lauderdale and we understand and appreciate that we are in the epicenter of new HIV infections here in South Florida,” said foundation Trustee Bill Venuti. “While we fund nonprofit labs across the U.S. and around the world, we wanted to show our commitment to the local HIV research efforts happening right here in our backyard. To that end, three nonprofit research laboratories were identified for fast-track, one-time research grants to work on innovative projects in each of the three South Florida counties (Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade).”
The Campbell Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn as a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It focuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. In its 20th year, the Campbell Foundation has given away almost $10 million dollars, with about $1 million going to direct services.