August 12, 2010

NIH awards $21 million grant to study early stages of HIV-1 infection

Salk News

NIH awards $21 million grant to study early stages of HIV-1 infection

LA JOLLA, CA—A multi-institutional team headed by John Young, Ph.D., a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and Sumit Chanda, Ph.D., an associate professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, has been awarded a $21 million Program Project Grant to dissect the early innate immune response to HIV infection using a systems biology approach.

The project will bring together a multidisciplinary team that draws on the expertise of 13 research groups at seven institutions to uncover the cellular protein machinery that represents the first line of defense against HIV, the cause of AIDS.

“More traditional approaches have relied upon investigating the roles played by single genes or individual cellular pathways. While these studies have borne some fruit, they only uncover small pieces of a highly interconnected network,” says Young, director of the Nomis Foundation Laboratories for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis at the Salk.

“The team working on this grant wants to understand how the innate immune system functions as a whole, with the goal of building accurate mathematical and experimental models that can ultimately be used to inform vaccine design and used to predict which cellular factors represent new targets for antiviral therapies,” said Young who also added that “the project may also reveal why some individuals differ in their susceptibility to HIV infection”.

Time: 00:01:33
Video: Courtesy of Salk Institute for Biological Studies

“The events that occur immediately after exposure to HIV, which determines the ability of the virus to establish infection and ultimately shape the course of the disease, are very poorly understood,” said Sumit Chanda, who also holds an appointment as an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. “This grant funds a multi-center consortium that will integrate cutting edge technologies in systems biology and next generation sequencing, with world-leading expertise in immunology and virology to decode and model the early molecular events that occur after HIV enters the body. These projects will be fundamental towards the development of safe and effective HIV vaccines, as well as novel preventative therapies for HIV.”

Participating researchers:

Salk Institute for Biological Studies
John Young (Principal Investigator/Program Director)

Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute
Sumit Chanda (Program Deputy Director)
John Reed
Renate König

University of California, San Francisco
Nevan Krogan

Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Adolfo García-Sastre
Ana Fernandez-Sesma
Viviana Simon

University of California, San Diego
Alexander Hoffmann
Michael David
Leor Weinberger

Northwestern University
Steven Wolinsky

University of Pennsylvania
Frederic Bushman

About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probe fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative, and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.

Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.

The Salk Institute proudly celebrates five decades of scientific excellence in basic research.

About Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is dedicated to discovering the fundamental molecular causes of disease and devising the innovative therapies of tomorrow. Sanford-Burnham, with operations in California and Florida, is one of the fastest-growing research institutes in the country. The Institute ranks among the top independent research institutions nationally for NIH grant funding and among the top organizations worldwide for its research impact. From 1999 — 2009, Sanford-Burnham ranked #1 worldwide among all types of organizations in the fields of biology and biochemistry for the impact of its research publications, defined by citations per publication, according to the Institute for Scientific Information. According to government statistics, Sanford-Burnham ranks #2 nationally among all organizations in capital efficiency of generating patents, defined by the number of patents issued per grant dollars awarded.

Sanford-Burnham utilizes a unique, collaborative approach to medical research and has established major research programs in cancer, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and infectious, inflammatory, and childhood diseases. The Institute is especially known for its world-class capabilities in stem cell research and drug discovery technologies. Sanford-Burnham is a nonprofit public benefit corporation. For more information, please visit

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