Business Council of Alabama member Southern Research of Birmingham has been awarded a seven-year contract of up to $22 million to support research that could contribute to the cure of human immunodeficiency virus disease.
Southern Research will develop and standardize assays that quantitate latent reservoirs of HIV, the company said in a statement.
“This is a revolutionary area in HIV research that is opening up new avenues for us in infectious diseases,” said Southern Research President and CEO Art Tipton, Ph.D. “It supports our 24-year legacy in HIV drug discovery and development for government and pharmaceutical clients.”
Southern Research was awarded the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) contract, “Quantitative Viral Outgrowth Assay (QVOA) Service Resource.”
The QVOA is the current best assay for characterizing the latent viral reservoir. However, the assay is not available to many laboratories conducting HIV cure research because it is expensive and labor intensive. Southern Research will expand access to the QVOA and support future clinical research focused on eliminating the latent viral reservoir.
In addition to providing the QVOA as a service resource, Southern Research will work with HIV latency and cure research experts to develop alternative assays that are more sensitive, less costly, can be completed more rapidly, and require smaller amounts of blood than QVOA. Southern Research will also provide training to investigators who are interested in running the assay in their laboratories.
“Our team is excited and energized to be partnering with the HIV research community to enhance our collective understanding of the latent reservoirs of HIV in support of the HIV cure initiative,” Southern Research Director, Infectious Disease Research and Principal Investigator for the contract Mike Murray, Ph.D., said
HIV can hide in infected blood cells that are invisible to the body’s immune defenses and are not sensitive to anti-HIV drugs. When a latently infected cell is reactivated the cell begins to produce HIV again, Southern Research said. HIV replication can be effectively suppressed in infected patients with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which reduces the level of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level.
Currently, there is no cure for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by HIV. But more than 30 FDA approved HIV medicines are available in the United States.
Southern Research is a non-profit organization with nearly 500 scientists and engineers working in drug discovery, drug development, engineering, and energy and environment.
Founded in 1941, Southern Research is headquartered in Birmingham and has laboratories and offices in Wilsonville and Huntsville, Frederick, Md., Durham, N.C., Cartersville, Ga., and Houston.
– Dana Beyerle