Transformative Innovation in HIV/AIDS Research and Outreach – InventUM

Transformative Innovation in HIV/AIDS Research and Outreach - InventUM

Transformative Innovation in HIV/AIDS Research and Outreach Article Summary The 2024 Miami Center for Aids Research Symposium welcomed 140 attendees and featured leading-edge HIV/AIDS research, education and outreach strategies. Miami accounts for one-third of Florida’s new HIV diagnoses, making it a national HIV epicenter. Symposium researchers discussed the viability of using broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) as an alternative to antiretroviral therapy. The 2024 Miami Center for Aids Research (CFAR) Symposium welcomed 140 attendees and featured nine innovative talks and a panel of researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine presenting leading-edge HIV/AIDS research, education and outreach strategies. The symposium featured a competitive poster session for young researchers scored on scientific merit and relevance in translational science by members of the Miami CFAR Scientific Interest Group, with winners chosen in basic science, clinical science and behavioral health. “Miami is an epicenter for HIV/AIDS, with a high rate of new infections,” said Savita Pahwa, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the Miller School and director of Miami CFAR, in her opening remarks. “With a theme of ‘Breakthroughs in Treatment, Vaccines and Cure,’ this symposium allows us to spread information and share resources and strategies to carry out our mission in priority areas.” Miami-Dade County’s HIV/AIDS prevalence has been high for years, with the city of Miami accounting for one-third of new HIV diagnoses in the state of Florida. Virus suppression depends on introducing cure strategies and research to the community. “We have our work cut out for us, with CFAR bearing the important responsibility to get into the community with programs that will change the trajectory,” said Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor in the Miller School Division of Infectious Diseases and co-director of Miami CFAR. “This meeting brings our pioneering research while showing the power mentoring, communication and awareness has on the community.” Driving Research Forward with Alternative Therapies Speakers from prestigious U.S. institutions sparked conversations about the latest scientific advancements, implementation strategies and HIV/AIDS treatments. The Wistar Institute’s Luis J. Montaner, D.V.M., M.Sc., D.Phil., spoke about the BEAT-HIV Delaney Collaboratory. Dr. Montaner is BEAT-HIVE principal investigator and studies broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs) as an alternative to antiretroviral therapy (ART). “While HIV is not going away, immunotherapy strategies need to acknowledge how the individual is going to respond to those therapies as part of the plan,” Dr. Montaner said. “We are trying to go beyond where we have been and, by working with a community-engaging model, we have developed a broad portfolio of strategies we can go forward with.” Tae-Wook Chun, Ph.D., chief of the National Institutes of Health’s HIV Immunovirology Section, expanded on bNAbs in a talk about antibody-based HIV treatment strategies. His study showed how the bNAbs drugs 3BNC117 and 10-1074 were effective and safe alternatives to ART therapy. Mike McCune, M.D., Ph.D., the head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s HIV Frontiers, emphasized that single-shot “cures” for HIV need to decrease the viral load to less than 50 copies/ml, have a duration greater than three years and, most importantly, be affordable. Insights from Miami HIV/AIDS Researchers Miller School researchers have remained on the forefront of HIV/AIDS research, community outreach, patient care and advocacy. The symposium’s “Miami Stories” panel illustrated their impact. Jose Martinez-Navio, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the Miller School Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, invoked the Miami monkey that was given bNAbs and cured of the virus, a finding scientists are trying to replicate. “There are two strategies we can look at this study with,” Dr. Martinez-Navio said. “We can teach the body to make suitable antibodies or use antibodies we already know. The Miami monkey has shown bNaps work and are only produced by a minority of people with HIV. Our approach uses a vector in which the genome is removed and a coding sequence is incorporated into an intramuscular injection to produce and neutralize antibodies.” Tyler Bartholomew, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Miller School, spoke about the IDEA Lab, the research sector behind the IDEA Exchange, a program aimed at reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C through harm reduction. “We wanted to see how we can best implement health interventions and evaluate the many health barriers in this population,” Dr. Bartholomew said. “Through a person-centered approach, we deliver care through telehealth, having our clinic strategically located in their environment and pairing patients with peer navigators to remain engaged in care.” Mariano Kanamori, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, rounded out “Miami Stories” with a discussion of implementation science and social network methods with spatial analysis in Latinx populations. Community Outreach and Collaboration A cure for HIV/AIDS won’t be of much use unless the community is educated and engaged. Jessica Salzwedel, senior program manager for research engagement at the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), spoke about best practices for engagement, especially in Black communities. “Engagement needs to be meaningful and inclusive, with how we craft messages for Black Americans needing to change,” Salzwedel said. “We need to give more than just medical information out to the public and meet their multiple needs by breaking down silos and bridging gaps.” AVAC developed new partnerships with Black communities by attending community events and using direct language to convey education initiatives. While there is more work to be done, collaboration accompanies progress in research and community outreach. “Everyone at this event should congratulate themselves for advancing the field,” said Stephen Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the executive dean for research at the Miller School. “Since finding a cure will be a difficult task, we must think big while working together. Keep up the good work and never give up. That’s how we progress.” Tags: AIDS, CFAR, Dr. Jose Martinez-Navio, Dr. Mariano Kanamori, Dr. Mario Stevenson, Dr. Savita Pahwa, Dr. Tyler Bartholomew, HIV, HIV/AIDS