Professor receives $10 million NIH grant for HIV research

The five-year study will focus on defending an antiviral protein against HIV.

by Kyle Potter

Led by a University of Minnesota scientist, a team of researchers from around the globe will soon begin studying a human protein that may hold a secret in treating HIV.

Professor Reuben Harris of the UniversityâÄôs College of Biological Sciences received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to direct a five-year study of the protein APOBEC3G.

They occur naturally throughout the body and combat viruses.

âÄúAPOBEC proteins are part of our normal, innate immune response,âÄù Harris said.

But HIV and other similar viruses âÄî called retroviruses âÄî contain proteins called viral infectivity factors that weaken APOBECs and allow the virus to thrive. 

Harris and his team will research APOBECs and the relationship they have with VIFs, in hopes of defending the antiviral proteins.

âÄúI am quite confident that we can exploit that information in rationally designing drugs to leverage this powerful cellular response,âÄù he said.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has ravaged developing countries since its discovery in 1981. About 33 million people were living with HIV or AIDS in 2009, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

More than one million of those infected live in the United States âÄî 95 percent are from developing countries.

In 2009, 1.8 million people died due to HIV or AIDS infections, according to NIAID.