Here To Inspire

amfAR's CEO on Bankrolling a Cure for HIV

As the world marks 30 years of HIV devastating lives, homes, and nations, the CEO of amfAR looks to make sure the virus doesn't reach age 40.



The cure research will try to determine which might be the best way to eradicate HIV from a person's body: sterilization of the virus, or weakening the virus as it remains in the body. Frost said people tend to traditionally believe that removing the virus would be the cure, but an end to HIV might mean what he calls a "functional cure," which would render the virus nonpathogenic — that is, harmless. While Frost said this technique has been receiving attention, for scientists to fully embrace it, they must become more comfortable with the idea of a latent virus rather than completely eradicating the virus from the body.

Frost added that scientists should continue to evaluate their research tactics to ensure that efforts are detailed and collaborative. "It's not enough for scientists to toil away isolated from each other," he said. "One could look back to the development of the atomic bomb in this country. People came together with the collaborative approach when they were trying to split the atom. I think there's clear evidence that the collaborative approach is working and that it'll get us closer to a cure even faster.

Other projects funded by amfAR will analyze viral infections and how they compare across long stretches of time. For example, at Johns Hopkins University, researchers will will look at how HIV reservoirs become established in people who develop little immune response to HIV infection to better understand how the virus persists without an immune response. And at the University of California, San Francisco, researchers will examine possibilities for a cure by targeting ancient retroviruses existing in stretches of DNA that are millions of years old and present in the human genome.

Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $325 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.