NIH issued 34 new grants to Massachusetts scientists in June, including funding for research into HIV/AIDS vaccines, migraines, and long-standing gene therapy target, SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome.
The 34 grants totaled roughly $11.6 million, according to an analysis of the NIH Reporter database. The two largest grants – both for HIV/AIDS vaccine research– were from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Just in time for next week’s International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. There researchers will look at vaccine development in light of the new-found efficacy of antiretroviral therapy to prevent new HIV infections.
Here are a few of the successful grants:
- Vaccine researcher Ruth Ruprecht of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute won $856,000 for a project entitled Humoral Correlates of Protection Against HIV. From the grant: “This project seeks to analyze the differences in antibody responses induced by an AIDS vaccine between monkeys that were completely protected from AIDS virus infection and those that were not. We will isolate the B cells responsible for producing the successful antibodies, clone their antibody genes, and generate monoclonal antibodies, which will be tested for their specificity and potential to block AIDS virus infection.”
- Amitinder Kaur of Harvard Medical School won $847,000 for another HIV vaccine project, NKT Cells as Modulators of AIDS Vaccine Efficacy: “Natural killer T (NKT) cells are innate immune cells with potent immunoregulatory properties that can shape host immune responses against a variety of pathogens. In this project we will investigate whether NKT cell activation can act as an adjuvant to enhance the protective efficacy of a candidate AIDS vaccine.”
Two projects at different research centers looking at migraines were funded by different agencies.
- Richard F. Lewis at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary won $396,000 for, Vestibular Migraine Investigated with Psychophysical and Oculomotor Tests : “This project will investigate patients who have dizziness caused by migraine (vestibular migraine) and control subjects using use perceptual and eye movement testing. The goal is to improve understanding of vestibular migraine by helping to elucidate its underlying pathophysiology.” His grant came from The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
- Rami Burstein at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, won $435,000 from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Photophobia During Migraine: Sensory, Autonomic and Emotional Responses”: “Photophobia often renders migraineurs dysfunctional as they are force to seek dark environment….The broad objective is to identify neural mechanisms that cause migraineurs to seek sanctuary in the dark during attacks in effort to escape what they describe as “my head hurts more and I feel worse when I am exposed to light”. The long-term objectives are to identify the impact of light on sensory, affective and autonomic neurological functions during migraine (human study), and discover the neural pathways through which lights alter these functions (animal study).”
- Stem cell researchers at Boston Children’s Hospitals received $607,000 to pursue research into the use of adult stem cells for treatment of severe combined immune deficiency. They say, “SCID has offered proof of principle that gene therapy can cure human disease; however, leukemia has been observed in some patients as a result of this treatment. Availability of a limitless source of stem cells from patients with SCID could help improve our knowledge of the disease … We will differentiate skin cells (fibroblasts) from SCID patients into induced pluripotent stem cells and analyze their ability to give rise to functional lymphocytes. We will also introduce a normal copy of the gene into patient iPSCs and analyze reconstitution of T cell development in vitro and in animal models.”