BIDMC Receives $42 Million to Research HIV Vaccines and Cures

The hospital will co-lead the five-year research initiative.


BIDMC photo by Alex Lau

Thanks to a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) may play a pivotal role in eradicating HIV.

BIDMC and Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) received $42 million for studying HIV prevention and treatment. The five-year, multi-institution project aims to find not only a way to stop the spread of HIV, but a way to cure people who have already been infected with the virus.

BIDMC’s Dan Barouch and OHSU’s Louis Picker will lead the initiative. Both Barouch and Picker have developed vaccines that seem to prevent non-human primates from contracting simian immunodeficiency virus, a disease similar to HIV that affects animals. Notably, Picker’s vaccine has even been shown to clear infections in about 50 percent of cases. The NIH grant will help the researchers better understand the science at work in those vaccines, and use that knowledge to develop preventative measures and cures for HIV in humans.

“What we know so far is that our preventive vaccine…is able to control and clear the virus in nonhuman primates, but we haven’t shown why it works,” Picker said in a statement. “Once we have a better understanding of the mechanisms that are making the preventive vaccine effective, there’s a chance that we could also optimize our vaccine, along with others.”

If successful, the consortium’s findings could help to curtail the devastating effects of HIV, a virus that roughly two million people contract every year. “A vaccine and a definitive cure for infection would accelerate an end to this global epidemic,” Barouch said in the statement.