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UNC Leading Study to Eradicate HIV

Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill will be leading an effort to find a cure for HIV AIDS. The National Institutes of Health awarded a $32 million, 5-year grant to UNC. That money will then be distributed to 19 different laboratories at 9 different academic institutions. David Margolis is a professor of medicine, microbiology, and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine and is a lead researcher with the project. He says previous efforts have lead to anti-retroviral drugs that have improved and prolonged the life of people with HIV.

David Margolis: "But they have to stay on therapy for years and the average age of new infection is actually relatively young. So we're talking about, you know, 30, 40, 50 years of chronic, sometimes complicated antiviral therapy."
This program will attempt to go beyond developing drugs that just treat the disease to actually trying to eradicate it altogether.

Margolis: "This is really the first large-scale program with the stated aim to study latency, study persistence of infection, and figure out how to get rid of it, how to eradicate infection and how to cure someone who is HIV-infected."
The pharmaceutical company Merck is involved as well but isn't receiving federal funding.

Margolis:" This is a complicated problem that's sort of too hard to be solved by any one small laboratory group and probably requires the tools of drug development that reside in the pharmaceutical industry. Merck is going to be a research partner with us to try to discover new ways to eradicate infection."
Margolis cautions that a cure for HIV could still be a long way off despite promising advances in the research.

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