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Vermonters researching a cure for HIV just got almost $80,000 to further their cause, thanks to a South Florida group.

The Campbell Foundation awarded $79,954 to Vermont’s White River Junction VA Medical Center in the form of a grant. The money will specifically go to to support research designed to improve the anti-HIV and anti-Herpes (HSV-2) activity of the antiretroviraldrug Tenofovir.

“The Campbell Foundation and its peer review board receive numerous applications annually from highly qualified researchers from around the world striving to discover better treatments for those with HIV,” said the foundation’s Program Officer Ken Rapkin. “Our peer review team was impressed with what these co-researchers have discovered thus far. After passing scientific evaluation, the foundation is pleased to play a role in their continued research that hopefully will lead to enhanced protection of women from HIV infection.”

The research team at White River developed strong preliminary data to show that HSV-2 (the herpes simplex virus) exacerbates HIV due to a molecule (called CXCL9) that increases the number of HIV target cells, which in turn reduces the effectiveness of Tenofovir, an effective HIV drug.

“This funding will allow us to understand whether, by blocking the inflammatory factor CXCL9, which is activated by the sexually transmitted virus herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2), we can decrease HIV-1 infection in women and improve the efficacy of Tenofovir,” said Susanna Asin, Ph.D., a co-investigator with the granted research.

“Given high infection rates by the herpes simplex virus in young sexually active individuals who are at risk for HIV-1, the findings from our studies will be important for the development of new therapies. These new therapies, when used in combination with HIV-1 microbicides, will likely improve the protective effect of these compounds, which will greatly benefit the HIV-1 community as a whole.”

The Campbell Foundation was established in 1986 by the late Richard Campbell Zahn (the chemist who brought you Herpecin-L lip balm) as a private, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting clinical, laboratory-based research into the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Itfocuses its funding on supporting alternative, nontraditional avenues of research. In its 19th year, the Campbell Foundation has given away over $9 million dollars, with about $2 million going to direct services.

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