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August 30, 2007

Pitt gets $16 million grant for HIV center

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the School of Medicine a $16 million, five-year grant to establish the Pittsburgh Center for HIV Protein Interactions.

Research at the center will give scientists detailed new insights into the life of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and have important implications for developing new drug targets.

The Pitt center, along with centers at the University of California and the University of Utah, are being funded jointly by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The Pitt center will specialize in developing methods and tools for understanding what happens to the HIV virus, both structurally and at an atomic level, immediately after it enters the cell and prior to becoming integrated into the host genome.

The center’s director is Angela Gronenborn, UPMC Rosalind Franklin Professor and chair of the medical school’s Department of Structural Biology.

Gronenborn said, “We know how HIV attaches to its host and how it gains entry to cells, but what happens between when it first enters into the cells and when it integrates itself into the host genome is still a mystery. By elucidating the important events during this period, we believe we’ll learn a great deal about how the virus can be stopped.”

In addition to studying the structure and interactions of HIV using advanced technologies, the center will engage virologists, cell biologists and structural biologists in deciding which of these interactions make the best drug targets.

“For many years, structural biologists and virologists have not worked closely in the area of HIV-targeted drugs. This center will allow the two to work collaboratively and help them to determine fairly quickly whether their hypotheses about what happens at the molecular and atomic levels of HIV infection are accurate,” said Gronenborn.

The center will make the methods and tools it develops available to the HIV research community at large.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 40 Issue 1

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