Miami Center For AIDS Research Receives Funding Renewal from NIH

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After a successful 2017-2022 research, mentoring, and program cycle, the Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has received renewed funding of more than $7 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for another five-year cycle to last through 2027.

A part of the Miller School since 2007, the Miami CFAR is currently in its fourth renewal cycle. The center operates under the leadership of Savita Pahwa, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Miami CFAR, and Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of medicine, co-director of the Miami CFAR and director of the Miller School’s HIV/AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases Institute.

Savita Pahwa, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Miami CFAR

There are 19 CFARs at academic and research institutions throughout the U.S. Because Florida and Miami-Dade County have the country’s highest rates of new HIV infections, the Miami CFAR is at the vanguard of the fight to end HIV/AIDS.

“This renewal allows us another chance to make a difference, especially in an area with such a large racial disparity like Miami,” Dr. Pahwa said. “It is important that we create a meaningful impact in the lives of all those who have AIDS, through our research, advancing our goals, and creating new career paths for scientists while promoting diversity and inclusion.”

“Miami lies at the epicenter of the U.S. AIDS pandemic,” Dr. Stevenson added. “CFAR designation ensures that we are in a strong position to work with legislators, health department, and academic entities to implement the federal plan to end the HIV epidemic. The CFAR designation also brings resources that will be needed to help us reach that goal.”

Continued Success

In the past five years, the Miami CFAR has focused its research efforts on targeted communities with HIV, such as women, the elderly, adolescents, minority communities, and LGBTQ populations. CFAR’S efforts have resulted in innovative research in behavioral approaches, health equity, HIV cure, and immune responses.

Training the next generation of researchers is also vital to the Miami CFAR, and the program has developed a new mentoring academy to launch junior investigators into leadership positions. CFAR has supported nearly $3 million in pilot awards and received more than $1.6 million in NIH administrative supplements. The CFAR has also increased the funded research base for HIV at UM.

Further highlights of the program’s 2017-2022 funding cycle include the addition of new faculty and expanding community engagement with the Florida Department of Health — as seen with the development of the PrEP Mobile Clinic program, currently operating at five sites throughout Miami-Dade County. The CFAR also continues to seek new ideas for establishing a scientific working group similar in structure to the HIV and Aging Scientific Working Group, to synergize scientific research strengths into four primary scientific interest groups and enhance inter-CFAR collaborations.

Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of medicine, co-director of the Miami CFAR and director of the Miller School’s HIV/AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases Institute

“The CFAR is well positioned to build on the success from this cycle and extend programs and services that will be addressing research priorities that support a cure, prevention, and treatment methodologies for all age groups into the future,” Dr. Pahwa said.

Onward Battle

The initial goal for CFARs across the country was to achieve a 90% reduction in new HIV infections in the U.S. by 2030. Despite the high new infection rates locally, Miami CFAR is optimistic that the numbers will come down. Importantly, access to HIV care in Miami has improved by 70%, with 80% of people who are infected having access to care.

Miami CFAR is looking forward to the 2022-2027 cycle as it continues to expand on its research initiatives, monitor its return on investment, and obtain new grants, like the Miami CFAR Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Pipeline Initiative. That initiative — aimed at promoting opportunities for researchers from underrepresented minority backgrounds — is being led by Zhibin Chen, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology; Adam Carrico, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences; and Dr. Pahwa.

“The AIDS epidemic has changed over time,” Dr. Pahwa said. “It has gone far from being a death sentence to a chronic condition, thanks to the advancements made in medicine and the works of CFARs across the country. However, with longevity, people with HIV are facing new health challenges.

“We have not found a cure yet, but our mission remains the same: to prevent, treat, and cure HIV/AIDS across all age groups by developing a solid infrastructure and a sound strategic plan to accomplish it.”

Find more information on the Miami CFAR cores and leadership at https://med.miami.edu/centers-and-institutes/center-for-aids-research.

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