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November 26, 2002


Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) Receives Five-Year Grant From National Institutes of Health

ATLANTA--The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Emory Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) ( more than $7.3 million in a five-year grant that includes renewal of Emory’s designation as an NIH CFAR site. The award marks the culmination of a four-year planning period for the Emory CFAR that began with its original NIH designation in 1998. The new grant will help facilitate the continued growth of AIDS research at Emory College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and four teaching and research institutions within Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center including the Emory University School of Medicine, the Rollins School of Public Health, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

NIH funding for HIV/AIDS research at Emory grew from $11.7 million to $33.5 million during the CFAR’s developmental period, while total Emory funding for HIV/AIDS research increased from $23.1 million to $44.2 million ­­ one of the steepest growth curves of any of the 19 NIH CFARs nationwide. The Emory CFAR now includes more than 120 faculty, including 60 who serve as principal investigators on NIH grants. As a measure of the impact of CFAR upon HIV/AIDS recruiting and research development at Emory, only 17 of the 60 current principal investigators (PIs) were PIs or Co-PIs on Emory NIH-funded HIV research grants prior to the institutional establishment of the Emory CFAR in 1995. More than 30 additional faculty have been recruited to Emory during the developmental period.

The Emory CFAR includes a broad range of programs in prevention sciences, vaccine development and testing, AIDS pathogenesis, and clinical sciences, as well as collaborations with international groups such as the United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS), the Fogarty Foundation’s AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Emory CFAR’s location in Atlanta, often referred to as "the public health capital of the world," affords it unique collaborative opportunities with high-profile international organizations combating AIDS, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Carter Center, Project CARE, and the Task Force for Child Survival.

James Curran, MD, MPH, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory, is director and principal investigator of the Emory CFAR. Dean Curran is former director of the HIV/AIDS Division at the CDC and former assistant surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service.

"The tremendous growth of Emory’s program in HIV/AIDS is evidenced not only by the major increase in our research funding but also in the breadth of our programs in prevention, laboratory research and treatment," Dr. Curran said. "In the next five years we will continue to build on the exciting advances in immunology, vaccines and drug development being made in our laboratories. We also will continue fundamental research in HIV prevention, risk assessment and interventional strategies, and expect to continue our leadership role in national and international HIV prevention and treatment initiatives."

The Emory CFAR facilitates research within Emory University by providing shared equipment, expertise and services to the Emory HIV/AIDS research community through the staffing of six research cores, including developmental, behavioral and social sciences, biostatistics, clinical research, virology/pharmacology, and immunology.

The Emory CFAR award is jointly funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and five other NIH institutes: the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and the National Institute of Mental Health.

James W. Curran, MD, MPH
CFAR Director; Dean, Rollins School of Public Health
David S. Stephens, MD
Executive Vice-Chair of Medicine and Director, Division of Infectious Diseases, Emory University School of Medicine
Rafi Ahmed, PhD
CFAR Associate Director for Pathogenesis and Vaccine Development; Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, and Director, Emory Vaccine Center
Carlos del Rio, MD
CFAR Associate Director for Clinical Science and International Research; Chief of Medicine, Grady Memorial Hospital; Director, Emory AIDS International Training and Research Program
Ralph DiClemente, PhD
CFAR Associate Director for Prevention Science; Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health
Kimberly Sessions, EdD
CFAR Assistant Director for Programs; Senior Associate Faculty, Behavioral Science and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health.

Additional leadership is provided by the CFAR core directors and an advisory board of key faculty from Emory University’s Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center


Vaccine Research

Emory Vaccine Research Center

In 1999 Emory dedicated a new 75,000 square-foot Emory Vaccine Center, which includes one of the largest groups of academic investigators in the world focused on the development, evaluation and implementation of vaccines for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, anthrax and smallpox. The Vaccine Center, which is supported by the NIH and the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), is located adjacent to the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Yerkes has long been recognized as one of the leading centers for biomedical and biobehavioral research with non-human primates. The unique animal resources and technical support at Yerkes and a close relationship with the Emory School of Medicine’s clinical programs in HIV/AIDS provide a truly unique and comprehensive research environment.

The Emory Vaccine Center is directed by Rafi Ahmed, PhD, Emory CFAR associate director for pathogenesis and vaccine development. Dr. Ahmed is a GRA eminent scholar and scientist renowned for his research in T-cell immunology and memory cell response. A new vaccine developed by Vaccine Center and Yerkes scientist Harriet Robinson, PhD and her colleagues, is considered one of the most promising new HIV vaccine candidates in the world. The vaccine has proven remarkably effective in monkeys against a formidable challenge with SHIV, a combination of the immunodeficiency viruses that infect humans (HIV) and simian primates (SIV), and will enter human clinical trials late in 2002 or early in 2003.

The Hope Clinic

In spring 2002, Emory opened the Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center, a community-based clinical research facility located three miles from Emory in downtown Decatur, Georgia. The Hope Clinic is devoted to clinical trials of promising new vaccines and therapeutic interventions. Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, is medical director of the Hope Clinic and co-director (along with Dr. Jeffrey Lennox) of the Emory CFAR Clinical Research Core. Dr. Feinberg has been actively involved in HIV research, patient care and policy since 1984, having served as medical officer for the Office of AIDS Research at the NIH and as chair of the NIH Coordinating Committee on AIDS Etiology and Pathogenesis Research. Dr. Feinberg is also principal investigator of an NIH-funded study of innovative new vaccine strategies to prevent HIV infection and leads a multidisciplinary, multinational group working on new ways to deliver HIV vaccines to patients using portions of FDA-approved vaccines for measles, chickenpox and yellow fever.

Translating basic research progress into real vaccines that make a difference in eliminating hardship around the world is a central mission of the Hope Clinic. Research staff at the clinic are currently conducting early phase clinical trials of promising HIV vaccines in healthy volunteers.

Clinical Research

Emory CFAR and School of Medicine faculty treat and conduct clinical research with HIV/AIDS patients at five major sites in Atlanta, including Grady Memorial Hospital, Crawford Long Hospital, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Emory University Hospital and the Ponce de Leon Center.

The Ponce Center, which is directed and staffed by Emory School of Medicine infectious disease specialists, is the site of one of the largest and most comprehensive outpatient HIV treatment facilities in the country, serving more than 4,000 HIV/AIDS patients, including 300 children, representing approximately half of the HIV-infected patients in Atlanta. Under the direction of Jeffrey Lennox, MD, associate professor of medicine, medical director of the Grady Infectious Diseases Program, PI of the Emory AIDS Clinical Trial Unit (ACTU), and Emory CFAR Clinical Research Core co-director (along with Dr. Mark Feinberg), the Ponce Center is also the site of approximately 20 ongoing clinical trials for HIV/AIDS patients. In their patient care and research activities, Emory infectious disease physicians direct special attention to improving access to care and to effective drug therapy for low-income and inner-city AIDS patients.

Under the direction of CFAR Advisory Board member David Rimland, MD, the Georgia Research Center for AIDS and HIV Infection at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center is one of four national VA AIDS research centers funded by the Department of Veteran Affairs. The Center is staffed by Emory School of Medicine and CFAR faculty members, and includes programs in basic, epidemiologic, clinical and applied research. Emory and VA scientist Raymond Schinazi, PhD (co-director of the Emory CFAR Virology/Pharmacology Core), and Emory College chemistry professor Dennis Liotta, PhD (director of the Emory CFAR Developmental Core), have been leaders in HIV/AIDS drug discovery over the past 15 years, leading to the development of the antiviral drugs 3TC, FTC, and other anti-HIV drugs currently in clinical trials.

Behavioral Research

The Emory CFAR also supports and facilitates some of the most ground-breaking behavioral prevention science research in the world. David Holtgrave, PhD is director of the CFAR Behavioral & Social Sciences Core. Before joining Emory in 2001, Dr. Holtgrave was director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention Intervention Research and Support, National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention at the CDC. He brings extensive experience in the economic evaluation of HIV prevention programs to Emory’s research and outreach efforts. Dr. Holtgrave’s recruitment to Emory is just one of the more recent of many that have brought international attention to the prevention research taking place at the University.

In addition to Dr. Holtgrave, the CFAR Behavioral & Social Sciences Core has recruited six other prevention research faculty to Emory including Ralph DiClemente, PhD, Gina Wingood, ScD, and Richard Crosby, PhD, to join nationally and internationally known HIV/AIDS researchers Claire Sterk, PhD, Kathleen Miner, PhD, and Colleen DiIorio, PhD.

"We went from having a few stars in HIV/AIDS research to one of the largest concentrations of forward-looking prevention researchers in the country just in the last five years," says Kimberly Sessions, EdD, CFAR assistant director for programs, "If you want to see what is happening in cutting-edge HIV prevention research, you look at what is happening at Emory."

With the assistance of the Emory CFAR Behavioral & Social Sciences Core, Emory prevention scientists are actively engaged in research in a wide range of settings including STD clinics, community-based organizations, county health departments, the Ponce Center, prenatal programs, incarceration facilities, Atlanta Job Corps, Boys & Girls Clubs, alternative high schools, adolescent medicine clinics and inner-city neighborhoods.

The three primary research themes in prevention science currently taking place at the Emory CFAR include the development and evaluation of behavioral risk-reduction interventions tailored to particularly vulnerable populations such as drug users, incarcerated populations, and African American adolescents and women; the development and evaluation of new and innovative strategies to enhance adherence to antiretroviral therapy; and the development and evaluation of strategies to facilitate HIV testing acceptance and access to care among hard-to-reach high-risk populations. "Our programs include an emphasis on ethnic pride, self-image, and self-awareness, as well as sexual health," says Dr. Wingood, co-director of the CFAR Behavioral & Social Sciences Core.

International Research

The Emory CFAR also has extensive global collaborations and initiatives in prevention, vaccine research and treatment. It is one of only six UNAIDS Collaborating Centers worldwide. Under the direction of Emory CFAR associate director Carlos del Rio, MD, the CFAR is also an NIH-designated AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP), which is part of the Fogarty International Center. Through the AITRP program, CFAR faculty members are enhancing HIV/AIDS-related research capabilities within Mexico, Vietnam, Armenia and the Republic of Georgia. CFAR vaccine scientists are also working in Africa (Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia) and India to arrange clinical trials of promising HIV vaccines while Emory behavioral scientists and infectious disease specialists are collaborating on health promotion and prevention projects with the South African Medical Research Institute.

HIV/AIDS Education

The Emory CFAR facilitates advances in HIV/AIDS education as well as research. Through the activities of the HRSA-funded Southeast AIDS Training and Education Center (SEATEC), directed by Emory CFAR Advisory Board member Ira Schwartz, MD, Emory’s Department of Family and Preventive Medicine works in a four-state area (GA, NC, SC, AL) to provide clinical training for health care workers who provide care to patients with HIV/AIDS.

The Emory CFAR and the Emory Vaccine Research Center also co-host the Vaccine Dinner Club (VDC), a monthly seminar series initiated in 1999 by CFAR that currently includes in its membership more than 650 vaccine investigators, developers, and administrators from Emory, the CDC, the University of Georgia, the Carter Center, Morehouse School of Medicine, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Georgia state government, charitable foundations and private industry. The VDC has gained a national reputation and its monthly meetings routinely draw from 150 to 250 people. The VDC membership is highly interdisciplinary and includes basic science, translational and clinical researchers as well as vaccine developers, epidemiologists, behavioral scientists and policy makers.

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