HIV can be a wily virus. Research has found it can hide and lay dormant, evade attack by mutating or, in some cases, disappear.
The Campbell Foundation has provided a $90,000 grant to Otto Yang, MD, an infectious disease researcher at UCLA, who is using an innovative and cutting-edge treatment to seek out and destroy HIV-infected cells using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T gene therapy.
Researchers have been applying HIV-specific CARs to T cells to kill HIV-infected cells. However, it’s believed that HIV can mutate and escape under pressure from CAR-T cells.
“We are studying chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which reprogram T cells to kill HIV infected cells when the CAR attaches to the HIV envelope protein on the infected cell. A key concern is that HIV may be able to develop mutations that allow it to escape from binding by the CAR, just as it can develop escape mutations against drugs or antibodies,” said Dr. Yang. “Our focus is to determine how HIV can mutate to escape. This is an important first step toward developing strategies to cope with the issue.”
CAR-T therapy has been gaining ground in recent years, particularly in the treatment of cancer. Earlier this month researchers announced that the first two patients to receive CAR-T therapy were in remission from chronic lymphocytic leukemia a decade after treatment.
“The Campbell Foundation is excited to be able to fund this project in an area of research that has proved to be successful in the treatment of certain cancers,” said Executive Director Ken Rapkin. “We believe Dr. Yang’s research has great potential and we look forward to seeing the results of his work.”
In approving the funding, one Campbell Foundation peer review member noted the following: “The proposed work has the potential to advance the development of the utilization of CAR T cells as a therapy for HIV. The research plan will advance the field and the work will be directed by an established and productive investigator.”
Another board member noted: “Dr. Yang’s studies will likely not only inform the CART/HIV field, but also provide additional understanding about the role of the CART technology in general, including its possible application in other infectious diseases.”
The Campbell Foundation is celebrating its 27th anniversary this year!
About The Campbell Foundation
The Campbell Foundation was established in 1995 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn as a private, independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. It focuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. As The Campbell Foundation prepares to celebrate its 26th year, it has given away more than $11.5 million dollars, with nearly $1.5 million of that going to direct services.